Friday, April 9, 2010

Island project

Here's the Fox Islands community-owned wind project in the first rays of yesterday's sunrise from the ferry. The three GE 1.5 MW turbines belong to the Electrical Cooperative, which itself belongs to the 2,000 cooperative members, and they comprise the first full scale community wind scheme in Maine. The Coop is an innovator in community wind and their system also now comprises the first, very basic, smart grid-type scheme in Maine, with surplus wind power now used for household heat using remote switching. Read these news articles for more information on their renewable heat and transportation ideas:

We traveled to the islands yesterday on the invitation of the Coop to move the 10 meter anemometer tower we placed there a few months ago, side-by-side with a recording decibel meter. The wind farm has been the subject of noise complaints by a small number of abutting landowners, and the decibel measurements are required by the Maine DEP. But they will also help in studying the noise from wind turbines in Maine in general. We have very high wind shear in Maine, and that affects the acoustics a good deal, making turbines appear noisier than if they were in a lower wind shear environment.

We had the usual high-spirited, good-natured Unity College work crew. How we manage always to breed 'em like that I'm not sure, but it always seems to work out that way. This particular crew is very experienced by now, comprising the current members of our Sustech Program's third-year Energy and Energy Efficiency class.

We opted for an ad-hoc system for moving the tower, avoiding full disassembly. This took not a little wind on our own part, but I tend to think we needed the exercise after a winter of cabin fever. I at least felt better, as always, for a little heavy lifting.

Re-erecting the tower on the new DEP-required site required two tries. The negative slope of the new site was a little awkward with a fair amount of unwanted leverage on the winch and poor anchorage for the base plate. We overcame the poor leverage situation with a borrowed packing crate, anchored the base plate temporarily with a one-inch rope, and on the second try it all went up smoothly enough.

Students worked without having to be closely supervised on even the most technical of the jobs, the wiring of the sensors. The system tested out perfectly.

We then were treated to a tour of the wind farm, and a very decent lunch in the island bar. The treat came courtesy of our host, George Baker, the CEO of the Fox Islands Wind project and a Professor at Harvard Business School. George is a charismatic and animated kind of fellow and the students enjoyed his company and teaching.

All in all, a fairly excellent day of education and service in renewable energy studies.

Thanks to George and the Fox Islands Coop and residents for the opportunity to contribute.

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