Our Maine Street's Aroostook Issue 1 : Summer 2009 - Page 46

Wind Power Higher Education & with pieces by Rachel Rice & Karen Gonya PRESQUE ISLE – There’s a new feature in the city skyline now that the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s wind turbine is up and running. Standing out against brick buildings and blue skies is a 65-meter tower topped with three slowly spinning blades – each 47 meters long – that are helping to transform the passing breeze into a power source that can be used by the entire campus. The 600 kW wind turbine, which was assembled in mid-April and began generating electricity in May, is the very first midsize wind turbine to be installed on a university campus in the State of Maine. Only a handful of them have been installed on university campuses throughout New England. This turbine is expected to produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. It also is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year, or the equivalent of removing 123 cars from the road. “This is the most significant renewable energy project we, as a campus, have ever undertaken, and we are both proud and humbled to be stepping forward as a statewide leader in the utilization of wind as a renewable energy resource,” UMPI President Don Zillman said. When the University began work on this $2 million project, it set out with the major goals of serving its educational and community roles as a public university, lowering its energy bill, and reducing its carbon footprint. The University first began exploring alternative energy options about five years ago when the Gentile Hall building project was underway. Geo-thermal energy generation was considered, but officials determined that the option was not feasible, so turned to wind generation. After talking with the U.S. Department of Energy about wind power, the University was directed to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory. RERL installed wind monitoring equipment in a field next to the tennis courts on Nov. 21, 2004. The data received indicated that a wind turbine would be a fiscally feasible venture for the University. Just a little more than two years ago, on May 3, 2007, the University announced its intentions to move forward on a wind turbine project. After securing the proper permits and completing contract negotiations, the University signed an agreement with Lumus Construction, Inc. to build the turbine. Construction work at the turbine site, located near the athletic fields at the southern end of campus, began on Nov. 19, 2008. The turbine foundation – about 100 cubic yards of concrete was poured for it – was completed during the winter. In late February 2009, the tower parts, which were manufactured in North Dakota, began arriving. On April 15, the blades, hub and nacelle – manufactured in Chennai, India – were delivered. In just 4 days, the turbine was completely assembled. Crews then completed interior equipment installation, electrical hook-up work, and diagnostic tests so the turbine could begin spinning. Funding for the project came from campus reserves, which have been built up through more than 20 years of careful financial stewardship. The University UMPI 44 Wind & Higher Education SUMMER & FALL 09 also received a $50,000 Voluntary Renewable Resources Fund grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission and was provided with funding support from the Rebuild America grant program through Efficiency Maine as administered by the University of Maine System’s Systemwide Services. On May 14, just two days before its 100th Commencement Exercises, the University held a special ceremony to officially commission its 600 kW wind turbine. The commissioning event included remarks by local and state officials, a ceremonial ribbon cutting and the release of enviro