Windmills reach new heights

Fifty stories, or about 490 feet. That’s the record setting height at the top of the blades on the windmills in the photo above. These latest-generation turbines were just connected to the grid at the Snyder Wind project in Scurry County, west Texas. Built by Enel North America, with financial backing from GE Energy Financial Services, the turbines were made by market-leading Vestas — not GE, for those keeping score — and can crank out 3 megawatts apiece. These windmills are especially tall because wind studies showed the most persistent winds were high up. So, on their own, the supporting towers supporting the turbines are 345 feet tall, or about 35 stories.

This milestone is worth marking since, the longer a windmill’s blades get, the more power they can generate, and the lower the cost of that power falls. So the bigger these turbines get, the closer they get to being competitive with conventional fossil fuels. No word on the price for this project, though. But as one measure of this trend, consider that, with just 21 turbines, this project can generate enough power to supply about 12,000 homes. Were it built just a few years ago, the project would have needed twice as many, or more, turbines to generate that much power. For a sense of the scale of these vertigo-inducing heights, see the close up, below, showing the three trucks parked at the base of the tower on the left.

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