Distributed wind energy projects don’t always work out as planned (we present the 3-percent-capacity-factor Lordstown, Ohio, turbines). But well-planned projects can come through as advertised – even when Mother Nature throws a curve ball at ’em – and fulfill a valuable niche function.

Case in point: The Hempstead, N.Y., wind turbine. We reported on its installation back in January 2012, and now a report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Powering America initiative shows the 100-kilowatt turbine produced at the high end of its expected range in its first year of operation. It did so despite losing a month of operation due to Hurricane Sandy and other grid-related issues.

hempstead wind turbine
Hempstead’s 100-kilowatt wind turbine (image via Aegis Wind)

The Hempstead installation is more interesting than your typical distributed wind project because it was undertaken specifically to provide clean power to an electrolyzer that produces hydrogen for a vehicle fueling station in the Long Island city.

Hempstead had been buying about 200,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year off the grid to create clean-burning hydrogen – grid power that came mostly from fossil fuels, kind of defeating the purpose of the hydrogen vehicle program. And the power was expensive: At 20.2 cents per kWh, electricity in the New York City-Northern New Jersey-Long Island region is 56.6 percent more expensive than the national average of 12.9 cents/kWh [PDF].

When the $615,000 turbine went in, the forecast was that it would produce between 180,000 and 240,00 kWh per year; it ended up producing 225,000 kWh in Year 1. That’s a 25.7 percent capacity factor by our calculation, quite respectable for a project of this scale, especially given the unavoidable disruptions.

The fuel station itself in Hempstead has several elements, providing pure hydrogen, compressed natural gas (CNG) or a blend of hydrogen and compressed natural gas (HCNG). Toyota has provided two fuel cell hybrid vehicles valued at around $100,000 for use by the town. The blended hydrogen/compressed natural gas fuels a shuttle bus that’s used for a senior program, and a Ford E450 shuttle bus, supplied by CNG company Clean Vehicle Solutions, was “upfitted” to run on natural gas and calibrated to run on the HCNG fuel.

Tara Schneider Moran, a conservation biologist for the Department of Conservation & Waterways in Hempstead, New York, told Wind Powering America that town officials – happy about the $40,000 a year in energy production the turbine has brought – are now looking into building a microgrid to make use of the turbine’s energy production capabilities during grid power interruptions.

More information about the Hempstead wind turbine is available in a paper [PDF] by Aegis Wind, a partner in the project.

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