Boxford – The MIT-Bates laboratory on Manning Avenue in Middleton provides technical support in a variety of ways to its parent institution in Cambridge and its affiliates. But now a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students from Cambridge has begun a study to possibly provide renewable energy for the laboratory in Middleton.
MIT Bates Linear Accelerator Center Associate Director Karen Dow said the student group is investigating the possibility of placing a wind turbine at the top of a hill off Manning Avenue in Middleton.
The staff at the facility did consider a wind turbine proposal in 2006 but since they no longer were running the energy-guzzling particle accelerator, which consumed a quarter of the energy used in town at one point, it didn’t seem feasible.
“At that point it wasn’t clear that it would work economically,” said Dow.
However, times have changed. With the additional energy needs of a high-speed computing facility that opened in 2009 at the multi-faceted laboratory, she said a wind turbine would definitely help defray the rise in energy costs for the facility that sits in one of highest points in the area.
“It is more advantageous than it used to be,” said Dow.
The computing facility, which receives data from international scientific facilities such as the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland and a gravitational wave observatory in Washington State, will be running all of the time and may bump the facility’s energy usage to a total of 8,000-megawatt hours in a year.
“That’s a nice 24/7 load,” said Dow. “The power usage will go up.”
Both Dow and facilities director Stephen Miscowski said a large piece of the puzzle would be dealing with the town in regards to permitting the turbine with the appropriate town departments.
MIT students will be utilizing a temporary, meteorological testing tower that has already been brought up to Middleton. MIT management hopes to have it constructed soon. The temporary tower will allow a group of MIT students to research the wind characteristics on top of the hill in Middleton to identify whether wind turbine construction is feasible.
“We anticipate that it will be installed in the next couple weeks,” said Miscowski.
While the wind turbine study should begin in the near future, there will still be many other factors to consider if MIT decides to build a wind turbine at the Bates facility in Middleton.
Middleton Town Administrator Ira Singer said there are many opportunities for educational partnerships, with the construction of a new elementary school and regional technical school nearby. Since the plan is in a very preliminary process, he said MIT must do more research before the town can figure out how to “respond” to the request for permitting a wind turbine. He said they would need to see how their current bylaws would be able to deal with a turbine proposal.
“We think our bylaws would still allow for a rigorous review,” said Singer.
The MIT student energy group, Renewable Energy Projects in Action, may be involved in the construction of the meteorological tower, which will sit 100 feet off the ground and test wind. Donated by New Jersey-based power generation company NRG, the temporary tower will sit on the hill off Manning Avenue for nine months while students analyze the data it produces.
Dow said it will all depend on if the power produced will make turbine worthwhile compared to the power needs.
“It will depend on how the finances work out,” said Dow. “I would think, with a nice steady power load, it would be more advantageous than it used to be.”
MIT engineering systems graduate student Katherine Dykes is the president of the Renewable Energy Projects in Action, which was formed just a year ago and will be involved in the wind turbine study that will be done in Middleton.
“We are basically a group of graduate students with expertise in this area that has come together to do projects like this,” said Dykes. “We have students from the atmospheric sciences…applied math, and also engineering.”
Dykes said the group hopes to look at the “wind resources” in the area around the Bates facility in Middleton and investigate how the landscape and structures in the immediate area affect the wind at the top of the hill off Manning Avenue.
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