WAREHAM – On Parker Mills cranberry bog in Wareham sit two wind-measuring devices. First is a 197-foot meteorological tower, consisting of 3,000 pounds of steel to hold up 10 pounds of equipment. It takes 12 people three days to erect.
A few hundred feet away is another device, called a Triton. It’s less than 9 feet tall and fits in the back of a pickup truck – completely portable.
Made by Second Wind, a company based in Somerville, it’s the wind device of the future.
“This could be the kind of thing that helps put Massachusetts on the map” when it comes to wind power, said Glen Berkowitz, president of Beaufort Windpower, a company that hopes to eventually erect wind turbines on cranberry bogs to generate electricity.
The Triton will revolutionize the way wind is measured. Called a sodar, it’s a sound-based wind measuring system.
It makes a chirping sound, sending acoustic signals 500 to 600 feet off the ground to measure wind speed and direction, plenty high enough to account for the wind needs of a turbine, which reaches no more than 400 feet.
After collecting the wind data, the Triton, which runs on solar panel-charged batteries, transmits signals via the Internet to Second Wind, which has monitored the device’s performance since it was dropped off at the site more than four months ago.
Wareham Public Schools were instrumental in Second Wind’s choosing Parker Mills to test the Triton, Mr. Berkowitz said, because the school system allowed the Triton to tap into the wireless intranet on its neighboring property.
“They were the ones that helped us get access to the system,” he said.
Unlike the Triton, the met tower is limited by its height, and analysts must extrapolate wind speeds based on its recordings at 40, 50 and 60 meters.
Because the Triton is so convenient to move and can be set up just about anywhere, smaller operations and families can use them on their own property to test the winds.
“It would be a whole new way of trying to evaluate the feasibility of even small-scale wind,” Mr. Berkowitz said.
The Triton will need to collect information for a few more months before its data is analyzed. In the meantime, Beaufort is about to analyze the first year of data from the met tower to see if Parker Mills bog is a feasible site for wind turbines.
If the results are positive, in the future, consumers will have the option to purchase wind-generated power, rather than the coal-generated variety that is common today. And cranberry growers will earn revenue by leasing the land on which the turbines sit.
Cranberry grower Peter Beaton, who owns Parker Mills bog, is benefitting already. Beaufort Windpower is paying him to host the wind-measuring devices on his bogs.
“We’re always looking for diversification in our portfolio” to survive the changing tides of the cranberry business, Mr. Beaton said.
“It will be a benefit for many areas, really.”
The bogs sit a few miles inland, so the wind isn’t as strong as it would be right along Buzzards Bay, Mr. Berkowitz said.
However, what the site lacks in wind speed it makes up for in convenience.
Utility wires sit nearby, so the turbines can feed into the already-existing structure, saving money.
And unlike the politically charged coastal wind devices, a turbine on a cranberry bog doesn’t mar anyone’s ocean view or bring up concerns about endangered shorebirds, he added.
Beaufort Windpower will use the Triton to collect data from four Wareham cranberry bogs to see which ones are feasible for turbines.
The company is 2½ years into the process of bringing wind power to Wareham, a process that has taken five to seven years elsewhere.
But if it does take off, customers who sign on to wind power will see savings in five to 20 years, as coal, oil and natural gas prices rise.
“The higher fossil fuel goes, the more economical wind will be,” Mr. Berkowitz said.
By Jennifer Lade
Standard-Times staff writer
20 February 2008
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