Onsite Wind Turbines Power Ohio Honda Plant

In what appears to be the biggest onsite wind power project in the country, Honda has installed two giant turbines at a transmission plant in Russells Point, Ohio.

The 1.7-megawatt GE turbines – with 160-foot-long blades and on 260-foot-tall towers – are supposed to begin generating power this week, and Honda said [PDF] the Russells Point plant will then become “the first major automotive manufacturing facility in the United States to obtain a substantial amount of its electricity directly from wind turbines located on its property.”

The two Ohio turbines (image via Honda)

The two Ohio turbines (image via Honda)

What’s substantial? Ten percent of the plant’s annual electricity use, Honda said – some 10,000 megawatt-hours, a figure the company said wasn’t a mere ballpark estimate, but was based on analysis of the site and its wind conditions.

Onsite wind power is far less common than solar, in large part because in order to be a really effective source it needs to consist of big turbines on very tall towers. With solar, you can build small scale, medium scale – whatever scale you want. With wind, it’s really either go big or go home, and it’s not every site where this is viable.

Yet some companies have done it, particularly in California, where the State Self Generation Incentive Program is a big incentive. (It pays $1.25 per watt of installed capacity, half up front and the rest over the first five years of operation, assuming a 25 percent capacity factor is achieved.)

All around the country, projects are eligible for federal incentives – either the 30 percent investment tax credit, or the 10-year, 2.3 cents per kilowatt-hour production tax credit.

Last year, Nestle Waters put up two 1.6-MW turbines at its bottling plant in Cabazon, Calif., but the biggest onsite project we knew about in the U.S. before the Honda installation was the pair of 1.65-MW turbines at Zotos International in New York.

The Honda turbines are actually owned by ConEdison Solution through a subsidiary, RP Wind. “Through agreements with Honda Transmission, ConEdison Solutions will generate electricity for the plant, and be responsible for an interconnect agreement with the Logan County Electric Cooperative and an additional agreement with Buckeye Power, Inc., an Ohio electric cooperative.”

According to Honda, the 17-year-old Russells Point plant is its “most integrated transmission plant in the world,” where it makes automatic transmissions, continuously variable transmissions (CVTs), and four-wheel drive systems.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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