Yesterday, I had an opportunity to walk past the 12W  building in downtown Portland, OR, USA. The day was blustery, so it was a treat to watch these downwind machines yaw into the wind. I know, I know, I am a geek.

Last summer, I had an opportunity to speak with the project architects about the energy production of this urban ‘wind farm.’ Indeed, the energy yield of 1%/annum is rather low; far less than expected for urban wind turbine installations. And ja, perhaps a 4-5%/annum yield would really mean something, especially if it were a part of a hybrid system, say accompanying a PV array.

Aside: From my vantage point yesterday, it appeared as if there might be a PV array installed since I made my last pass this building in late summer last year. Perhaps these architects took my advice?

Right, so ZGF is testing the production of electricity. And perhaps now they are investigating the vibrational and noise effects of putting four turbines on top of a building since I planted this seed on them last summer. I pointedly told them vibration and noise could end up being the bane of this real-world experiment. I had shared with them what I had learned from the decommissioning of wind turbines on the high-rise buildings due to the aerodynamic noise generated in the Warwick Wind Trials results, such that the wind turbines formerly installed on the 45m high Eden Court in the Warwickshire, UK had to be permanently switched off in October 2008 due to noise complaints by the inhabitants. I last heard there was a moratorium on installing wind turbines on buildings in the Midlands of the UK because of these results. Be a shame if this happens in Portland, too.

Typically, wind turbine supports/masts are installed directly into the vertical support structures of the building to make them stronger. Beats the hell out of me why they didn’t do this, especially since there was obviously intent to do this in their early drawings. Installing the wind turbines directly on the rooftop makes an ideal opportunity for different frequencies of harmonics, precipitated by the wind, “making parts of the building hum and vibrate.” The harmonics shift and cause different portions of this structure to vibrate as the wind rises and falls, compromising the quality of life for the inhabitants of this building. Annoying to say the least. And at worst, could compromise this installation, requiring a decommissioning and a missed opportunity to study the potential of installing small wind turbines in the urban/built environment.

I asked these architects last summer if the results would be publicized for public consumption, and so I could have a go at analyzing their data. I understand that the building was officially commissioned back in Nov 2009. I am still waiting to see the data that is produced by the on-board inverter, user-monitored two-way wi-fi interface of the Skystream 3.7 wind turbines. I have been known to be “blind”, but I could not locate anything last time I trolled their web site. And, I stopped contacting them, because I was under the distinct impression I had unearthed some discomforting ideas they weren’t too keen on addressing, although I am always one for providing workarounds and solutions.

As I am learning, most designers tend to quietly dismiss a project’s failings, and don’t repeat installations like this. And so, as with folks in the USA not paying attention to the results of the Warwick Wind Trials, I have to wonder as if the poor decisions will only be repeated here.

Some have wagered that this installation will be taken down within another 12 months. I would like to think this will not be the case. But only time will tell, eh?