Four engineering students and one professor spent Monday, a school holiday, on a blustery hill at Shelburne Farms, pulling the tall pole into place. Lifting the anemometer took about 2 1/2 hours as the five men carefully eased it toward the sky, inch by inch. Each of the students operated several cables on each side of the device to pull and guide the pole into place.
"Anthony, can you loosen yours a little bit?" yelled John Kidder, the VTC associate professor of mechanical engineering technology who is overseeing the project. "Hey, could you tie the rope in a hitch knot?" he called to two other students, 19-year-olds Ben Rowe and Justin Marsha.
"I must have missed that week in Boy Scouts," Marsha yelled back, struggling to secure one of the yellow nylon ropes used to guide the anemometer.
The pole rose slowly as the students adjusted the cables. Beyond their silhouettes was a view of the town of Shelburne, its church steeples visible above the tree tops. Beyond that lay a spectacular spread of mountains.
Kidder said much of his help on-site for the past three installations has come from Anthony Jacinto, a first-year civil engineering student who enrolled at VTC after working almost 30 years as a construction worker, most recently on the Boston highway project known as the "Big Dig." While the other students wore borrowed white hard hats for the installation, Jacinto sported his own battered, red hard hat emblazoned with stickers reading, "Happiness is a belt-fed weapon" and "Proud to be an American!"
"I like this stuff," Jacinto said as he loosened and tightened the screws used to secure the cables that held the tower aloft. "I like being outside and I support what it’s about 100 percent – renewable energy."
For Shelburne Farms, the anemometer will be a way to tell if implementing wind power to the nonprofit’s facilities would be economically viable. The anemometer was the fifth to be installed as part of the Vermont Anemometer Loan Program, which is funded by a grant from the Vermont Department of Public Service. Through the program, anemometers manufactured by the Hinesburg-based NRG Systems are installed free by VTC students, at farms, residences, businesses or nonprofit agencies. Data are collected for a year, then analyzed to determine whether a site is a good location for a wind turbine. Kidder said an optimal site has wind that’s steady and smooth. If the wind is too turbulent or mild, the site might not be a good choice.
Shelburne Farms received approval to install the anemometer from the Shelburne Historic Preservation and Design Review Commission and the town’s Planning Commission. If the farm later wishes to install a wind turbine, it must apply for approvals from both commissions.
Shelburne Farms President Alec Webb said no decisions will be made about whether a turbine will be installed until the anemometer data arestudied, neighbors’ concerns are considered and funding to pay for a turbine is secured. He also said he doesn’t know how tall a prospective turbine might be, because the anemometer will collect wind data at two heights, 85 and 100 feet, to determine where the best wind blows.
In addition to benefiting the people who receive the anemometers, the Vermont Anemometer Loan Program benefits students at the college who receive valuable training in how to install and operate an anemometer. Marsha, a second-year electromechanical engineering student, said the project is a resume booster and a way to avoid typical college work study jobs.
"This is definitely the most fun work study job because the others are mostly sitting in an office or washing dishes in the cafeteria. No hard hats needed there, but you do have to wear a hairnet, I believe," Marsha said.
A small crowd gathered on the edge of the hill to watch the anemometer rise against the blue sky. Among the spectators stood Brian Costello, whose Colchester property will be the sixth to receive an anemometer from the program. As he watched the installation, he received a call on his cell phone from the town of Colchester, giving him permission to proceed with his anemometer installation the first weekend in December.
"It’s the right thing to do," Costello said, explaining his choice to put an anemometer on his Porters Point property. "I might be able to produce enough power to sell the excess to my neighbors at a discounted price. I could spread the benefit – it could be a community system."