As construction continued on the Cape Cod Factory Outlet Mall in Sagamore Wednesday, a different crew was working across the Mid-Cape Connector and down the road that leads to the Pave PAWS radar site.
This crew, working out of view of those driving on nearby highways, was busily pouring the concrete base for what will be one of two 1.5-megawatt wind turbines that are slated to be spinning by the end of the summer. The turbines are being installed at the direction of the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment.
Those two AFCEE turbines will each be about 391 feet from their base to the tip of an upright turbine blade.
They will join another AFCEE turbine in the southwest corner of the Massachusetts Military Reservation, in place and turning since the fall of 2009.
On Wednesday the contractors had already started pouring the 470 yards of concrete at 7 AM and were not expected to finish until about 3 PM. The concrete was filling in, and would eventually cover, a ring filled with iron re-bar. The resulting foundation, designed to take on a weight of 5,000 pounds per square inch, is expected to take 28 days to cure.
Not too far away, a second foundation, poured last week, was curing.
Mashpee resident Rose Forbes, a chemical engineer who began working for the AFCEE cleanup program and ended up as project manager for the wind turbines, was on-site overseeing this week’s work.
Ms. Forbes also oversaw the construction of the cleanup effort’s first turbine. Eventually, the three AFCEE turbines will put enough energy into the regional electricity grid to cover 100 percent of the energy costs incurred by the Air Force for cleaning up plumes of polluted groundwater created by the military’s past uses and abuses of the base’s land.
As more and more of the cleanup operations on the military reservation wrap up, Ms. Forbes hopes a way will be found to dedicate the energy being provided to the grid for use by other programs on base.
Ms. Forbes said the construction of the wind turbines was a logical next step for AFCEE. She and other personnel working on the groundwater cleanup began to realize that the amount of fossil fuel being burned, and thus the operation itself, was adding pollution to the atmosphere at the same time as people worked to remove pollutants from the ground.
Ms. Forbes said the Air Force’s contractor, ECC, or Environmental Chemical Corporation, selected GE turbines to go up near Pave PAWS, the same size as, but different from, the Fuhrlander turbine that was the first to be erected. The turbine design was created by Boston-based STV Group Inc.
A representative of a turbine project being proposed in Kingston was on-site watching the concrete pour and asking Ms. Forbes what she had learned from that experience. She said AFCEE’s first turbine was performing well, but had some first-year problems, now ironed out. The foundation for that turbine, for example, used 600 yards of concrete, larger than what had proved necessary.
As Ms. Forbes discussed contractual and technical lessons learned with that representative, Mark Begley, the executive director of the Environmental Management Commission on base, was at the site and able to point out the protections put into place to ensure that the turbine project was as “environmentally friendly” as possible.
Mr. Begley noted that the contractors on-site had mounded the topsoil they removed, keeping it, and the plant seeds it contains, to be reused later.
The crew had also preserved the root systems of the surrounding brush, so that the undergrowth would return quickly, preserving the habitat of the many creatures that live in the area. Animals such as the endangered New England cottontail and even fisher cats, once thought long gone from Cape Cod, live on the surrounding land.
AFCEE’s two new turbines, Ms. Forbes said, were sited far enough down the road as to be inaudible to neighbors and, like two more turbines proposed by the 6th Space Warning Squadron, which operates Pave PAWS, should be visible from a distance, but are not expected to be in view of nearby neighbors.
The two Pave PAWS turbines, which should be constructed next summer, will be located a little nearer to the radar site than those that AFCEE is building this year.
Stephen Mellin, a Department of Defense civilian support officer for the 6th Space Warning Squadron, said that operation’s proposed two turbines are expected to be only as visible as the radar site itself.
He said people who are able to see the radar site, such as those traveling over the Sagamore Bridge or living across the Cape Cod Canal from South Sagamore, should also be able to see the turbines above the tree line. Mr. Mellin does not expect that those living near the site, as he, himself, does, will be able to see the turbines through the trees.
The Pave PAWS turbines, he said, are about a year behind the two newest AFCEE turbines in the development process, but are following “in Rose Forbes’s footsteps,” learning from AFCEE’s experience.
No contractor, and no turbine manufacturer, have as yet been chosen.
Turbines of the size planned, however, should make enough energy to offset about half the cost of running the radar site’s phased array.
Powering that site, which monitors space debris and could track an incoming missile, were one to be headed toward the East Coast, costs approximately $5,000 a day. Therefore, Mr. Mellin said, the addition of two 1.5-megawatt turbines will save taxpayers an estimated $2,500 every day.
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