SDCEA Decommissions Wind Turbine

The Skystream 3.7 mini-turbine windmill,The Skystream 3.7 mini-turbine windmill, which was located near the entrance of Sangre de Cristo Electric Association’s headquarters in Buena Vista for 13 years, was decommissioned in March.

When the 2.4-kilowatt (kW) turbine was installed in 2007 at a cost of $22,000, it was installed as a demonstration project a full two years before Colorado’s consumer renewable energy generation law became effective. In a 2007 article in The Pueblo Chieftain, Chief Executive Officer Paul Erickson said of the turbine, “It is a lab of sorts for conservation. We and other utilities can see what it does and doesn’t do in the real world.”

In 2009, SDCEA installed a 3.2-kW fixed-array solar system next to the wind turbine. SDCEA already had one 26-kW microhydro (water-powered) system on its grid. SDCEA’s goals for its “renewable energy laboratory” were to evaluate the effectiveness of each type of renewable energy resource, and to provide an educational tool for SDCEA consumers interested in renewable energy.

Over the past 13 years, SDCEA has gained a few takeaways from this project.

  • While many residents would say it is windy in SDCEA’s territory, it turns out that it is not consistently windy enough to cost-effectively generate power with a wind turbine.
  • At SDCEA’s current retail residential energy rate of nearly 13 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh), and when you consider that the wind turbine produced annually 1,006 kWh energy from 5.1% of its rated capacity. It would take decades of production to reach a break-even point on the cost of installation of the turbine (featured in the table below this article).
  • There are other carbon-neutral technologies available today that provide more reliable power for the dollar, such as Trout Creek Solar south of Buena Vista, and technology continues to advance at a rapid pace.
  • Finally, technology changes over time. When the wind turbine broke down, the victim of wear due to highly turbulent winds, it could not be repaired. In contrast, panels on Trout Creek Solar are warrantied for 25 years.

A worthy experiment, the turbine we decommissioned, unlike many, will not go to the landfill. It will instead take its place in SDCEA’s legacy equipment collection and the pole will be repurposed as a new flagpole more than twice the height of SDCEA’s existing flagpole.

SDCEA’s “Renewable Laboratory”

by the Numbers as of 2020

# of



(Size kW)



Average Annual

Generation (MWh)

SDCEA’s SkyStream Wind Turbine 1 2.4 5.1% 1 .06
SDCEA’s Net-Meter Microhydro 3 40.8 19.6% 70.09
SDCEA’s Net-Meter Solar 374 2,177.0 16.1% 3,066.35
SDCEA’s Net-Meter Wind 16 48.2 8.2% 33.42
SDCEA’s Trout Creek Solar2 1 2,000.0 28.0% 4,909.93
1 A capacity factor of 100% means the generator produces maximum power 24/7/365. 2 Sun tracking system & plant down in December 2019 due to inverter failure.