Powering Up Saratoga: An Insider's View

MGE's project manager talks about the steps required to energize a wind farm.

WindmillsThis year will mark a new wind farm for MGE—Saratoga is our largest wind farm yet. It comes online 20 years after one of our first wind projects. MGE's Steve Pitts knows both projects well.

“We were out ahead of everyone else in Wisconsin when we built our first wind farm,” says Pitts, MGE’s manager of construction engineering. “There weren’t a lot of suppliers or contractors who knew how to build one back then. Even the landowners didn’t know what to expect. We were all taking a risk.”

Pitts is reflecting on construction of MGE's Rosiere wind farm in Kewaunee County, Wis. In 1999, it was the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi River. Today, he is again overseeing construction of another "first" for wind farms in the United States.

“The types of turbine and blades at Saratoga have never before been used at a wind farm in this country,” says Pitts. “The blades are longer than others out there. Because of that, serrated edges were added to them to increase efficiency and to reduce noise.”

Saratoga's 33 Vestas turbines stretch across about 8,300 acres of farmland in northeast Iowa. One by one, the turbines will be cleared for operation after undergoing evaluation of their safety and control systems. Several turbines began generating electricity in December. All of them are expected to be operational in early 2019, providing clean energy to power about 47,000 Madison-area households.

“The turbines at Saratoga will run autonomously. They sense when the wind is strong enough to generate electricity," Pitts says. "The pitch of the blades adjusts automatically when wind speeds change to ensure they rotate within operating limits. If the wind changes direction, the turbines turn the direction of the blades as well for optimal production.”

Saratoga wind farm comparisonTwo wind farms, two decades apart

“The turbines have become much bigger and more efficient,” explains Pitts. “Twenty years ago, when we built our Rosiere wind farm, we couldn’t have conceived of what we now see at Saratoga.”

Saratoga's turbines reach more than 200 feet higher than Rosiere’s turbines. Their height allows them to take advantage of greater wind speeds aloft. As a result, each turbine will generate about three times the amount of electricity as turbines at Rosiere. 

A cleaner future

Our Saratoga wind farm is another step in MGE's ongoing transition toward greater use of renewable resources. Clean energy is one of our strategies toward deep decarbonization.

MGE is targeting at least a 40% reduction in carbon emissions by 2030 and at least an 80% reduction by 2050.

If we can go further faster by working together with our customers, we will. Read more about Saratoga and our other renewable energy efforts at energy2030together.com/cleanerenergy

published: Jan-04-2019