AUBURN – Water district officials hope a test will show that the eastern bank of Lake Auburn is a prime spot for an energy-generating wind turbine.
The district has applied for a grant to place a wind gauge along the lake behind the pump station buildings, on a plot north of Central Maine Community College.
“The way it looks on paper, we’d be an ideal spot for a wind turbine,” said John Storer, assistant water district superintendent. “But people have run into that problem before, and places that look like they should get plenty of wind are not generating enough power. So we need to test it, to see if it’s even feasible for our site.”
The grant would be managed by the University of Maine. If approved, students from the university would put the wind gauge up and monitor it. They’d study wind patterns along the lake for the next year, issuing a report in 2009 on whether putting a turbine there makes sense.
“People think you can just pop these things up and have them start generating electricity,” Storer said. “But you can’t.”
Good sites for generating wind energy typically have average wind speeds of about 13 mph. The study is also looking for sites that have a high demand for electricity on hand.
Lake Auburn works on both accounts, Storer said. A computer model shows annual average winds are faster than 13 mph. And the district’s water pump station has a built-in electrical system that can handle 500 kilowatts on site without needing additional work.
“We have some pretty heavy-duty systems in place to do what we need to do,” Storer said. “Our fingers are crossed. We’re pretty excited about our application, because we think we’ve got a pretty good set-up and we could really benefit from this.”
Storer said the district budgets more than $100,000 a year to pay for electricity. That pays for more than one million kilowatt hours of electricity per year.
“If we could use a turbine to generate even 30 percent of that, it would be a real savings to the district,” he said. The district could also modify its pumping schedule to take advantage of high winds.
“We’re not pumping all the time, at a steady rate,” he said. “So we’re hoping we’ll be able to compare the wind rates and the power demand and use them to our advantage. We’d pump more when the winds are higher, taking advantage of that as a resource.”
By Scott Taylor
19 July 2008
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