Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Wind turbine might provide half

Village Soup
By Andy Kekacs
Copy Editor

THORNDIKE (July 30): Directors of SAD 3 are considering the possibility of using the wind to generate power at the new $40 million school complex.

The 185,000-square-foot building will be the most costly public school project in Maine’s history. It will have three wings serving students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. When completed in late 2008, it will replace the aging Mount View complex, originally built in 1963.

Spurred by the rising price of oil, SAD 3 directors have been discussing ways to cut energy costs at the new complex. A wood-fired boiler remains under consideration.

Not long ago, Superintendent Barbara Rado Mosseau said, she received an information packet on wind power from Stephen Cole, director of the sustainable communities program at Coastal Enterprises Inc. in Wiscasset.

Cole suggested that grant-writing foundations would likely be willing to fund a study of the feasibility of generating wind power at the complex. Mosseau said she passed the information along to the facilities committee of the SAD 3 board, which expressed strong interest in the proposal.

“No schools in Maine use wind power,” said Mosseau. “[Cole said] that would probably work to our advantage [in finding grant support.] The board is very interested in doing as much as it can to promote energy conservation at the new school.”

Cole said a number of schools, particularly in the Midwest, use windmills. Not only can they provide energy, but they also serve as an educational tool for math and sciences classes. “Potentially, the school gets lower energy costs, but that has to be looked at carefully from a financial perspective,” he said.

While a professional wind analysis has not been conducted for the Mount View site, there are several indications that it could be well-suited for generating power.

Wes Kinney has operated a windmill on Knox Ridge near the school for more than 25 years. The 100-foot-high windmill generates 25 kilowatt-hours when operating at full capacity. Kinney told VillageSoup it provided enough energy, on average, to cover half of his $800 monthly electricity bill when he was operating his dairy farm.

In neighboring Freedom, Competitive Energy Services LLC of Portland has proposed to build three wind turbines on Beaver Ridge. The wind turbines would generate enough energy to power 2,000 Maine households.

The $10 million project would be built on land owned by Ron Price. Each turbine would produce about 1.5 megawatt-hours of energy. According to CES, the turbines stand 250 feet high and the blades measure 130 feet in length, for an overall height of just under 400 feet.

Cole’s agency did a statewide study of the feasibility of wind power last year, using computer-generated wind maps. Those maps also suggest Knox Ridge would be a good site.

“We scoured all of Maine using that data,” said Cole. “The maps suggest the [Mount View] site would have winds of 13.5 to 15 mph. That’s pretty much what Wes Kinney has seen.”

Cole has already sent a proposal to fund a more-rigorous feasibility study to a potential funder. He’s had two meetings with the grant source, and expects a decision to be made by early September.

Assuming the site is suitable, a wind turbine at the new school complex would likely generate 660 kilowatt-hours of electricity at full capacity and provide half the school’s electricity. The cost could range from $500,000 to $1 million.

Cole believes grant money might also be available to help with the installation costs.

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