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Shakopee Mdewakanton Wind Turbine to Undergo Major Maintenance


Prior Lake, MN – The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community wind turbine will undergo major maintenance in the next few months. Until that time, it will remain offline until a warranty repair is complete to install a new generator.

The eight metric ton generator inside the nacelle will be replaced. At a height of 262.4 feet, repair of the nacelle will require the use of a large crane. The repair itself will require about three days to complete. One day will be required to move equipment and crews into place and remove the generator, one day will be used to install the new generator, and on a third day the wiring will be re-connected and the system tested.

First the generator will have to be shipped from China and transported to Minnesota. A large crane will be used to remove the top of the nacelle and lift out the generator and place it on the ground. Then the new generator will be installed along with the top of the nacelle.

Stan Ellison, Director of the SMSC Land and Natural Resources Department explained, “Modern wind turbines are complex machines with thousands of moving parts. Three computer networks containing at least 10 different computers control the operation using data from multiple sensors including wind speed, wind direction, gust speed and variation, vibration in the nacelle, blade vibration, bearing and oil temperature, nacelle interior temperature, and many others. They are not ‘start and forget’ machines but require regular maintenance and supervision. Wind turbines can be quite high maintenance. This particular issue is a not an unheard of problem.”

The SMSC wind turbine generates about 1.8 million kWh a year, enough for all residences on the reservation. Energy created by the turbine is metered as it enters the nearby Minnesota Valley Electric Cooperative substation that provides electricity to the SMSC and the surrounding area. The generated energy is offset against Community energy costs.


After more than 10 years of planning and several years of wind studies and other research, the SMSC

purchased a wind turbine from Changzhou Railcar Propulsion Engineering Research and Development Center of Changzou, China. This vendor was selected due to their ability to provide a wind turbine at the best price and with the quickest delivery time.

The wind turbine was assembled at the SMSC Pow Wow Grounds over the weekend October 3-4, 2009, using a giant crane. Testing and commissioning of the wind turbine then took several weeks before it became operational.

The $1.8 million wind turbine, which has a payback period of about 15 years, has a life expectancy of 30 years. The SMSC wind turbine also demonstrates that wind energy is viable in areas of moderate to low winds, such as those found on SMSC tribal lands.

Wind energy is a low-cost, emerging renewable energy resource which does not contribute to global warming.

Minnesota is the third largest producer of wind energy in the nation, behind Texas and California. The state of Minnesota has set renewable energy standard that requires 25 percent of the state’s energy to come from renewable sources by 2025. The SMSC wind turbine is another example of the effort to meet that goal.

The wind turbine is one of several Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community energy initiatives already underway. The SMSC is a major partner in Koda Energy, a joint venture with Rahr Malting of Shakopee to produce heat and electricity by burning agricultural by-products such as wood chips, barley dust, and oat hulls, and grown energy crops. This stable, clean energy production facility became operational in mid-2009.

In 2010 the SMSC received Silver Level LEED Certification for the building which houses South Metro Federal Credit union. A geothermal heating system for temperature control captures heat and cooling from the ground. A mirror image building on the same site which houses the natural food market Mazopiya has also been built to LEED standards. Its certification is underway.

Another innovative project converts the Community’s waste motor oil and vegetable oil to heat buildings. Some Community spaces have been partially heated by waste oil since the winter of 2008-2009. Using waste oil for heat reduces the use of natural gas. Since 2009 the SMSC also converts 18,000 gallons of waste vegetable oil each year into biodiesel for use in Community vehicles and equipment.

Solar energy is used to heat water for showers and equipment washing at the Mdewakanton Emergency Services fire station, reducing the use of natural gas. Skylights also use the free energy of the sun to light a training room and equipment bay, reducing daytime energy usage.

Dakotah! Ice Center, which opened in late 2008, also features skylights specifically designed to complement the arena use. Between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. weekdays, the arena typically does not have a lot of use. By using skylights and daylight harvestings during these non-peak hours, energy consumption for lighting has been reduced by about 50%.

Another energy saving feature of the Ice Center is the capture waste heat from the refrigeration compressors used to cool the rink floor and use it to heat the arena seats. Dispersing heat in spectator spaces reduces the need to heat the entire arena. This reduces energy consumption and makes the arena more comfortable for guests.

As a steward of the land, the SMSC engages in a number of restoration activities to preserve and protect the land for future generations. For more information, visit


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