Scituate – Once over the Zakim Bridge in Boston, the 364-foot wind turbine that was built in October in Charlestown in is hard to miss. The Charlestown turbine, which was installed by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority, supplies energy to the DeLauri sewer pump station.
The turbine was built by Lumus Construction and is managed by Solaya Energy, the same companies that will build and manage the Scituate turbine.
Sumul Shah, President of Lumus Construction and CEO of Solaya Energy, has built and managed 23 turbines in the past five years, all of them in the New England area.
Shah said in many ways Scituate will be very similar to that of Charlestown turbine. The one difference is the Scituate turbine, to be erected early next year, will stand 33 feet taller than the 364-foot Charlestown turbine.
On Friday morning, Dec. 16, Shah conducted a tour for the public at the Charlestown turbine. On this particularly windy morning, with a steady breeze of 40 miles per hour, the turbine was at its maximum capacity for energy production producing 1,500 kilowatts of energy. Due to the high winds, the tours were not allowed to climb the ladder to the top of the turbine to see the control station and the view of Boston.
Inside the hollowed turbine, visitors were able to see where the maintenance crew climbs up the turbine and they were able to hear what the turbine would sound like on the windiest of days, which is best described as an airplane flying low overhead.
Inside a building located near the turbine, Shah showed how Solaya collects all its data from the turbine, in terms of how much energy is produced, when an error occurs, and when the turbine readjusts direction. The turbine had the capability to adjust the angle of its blades and its direction in order to gain the maximum amount of wind on a given day.
If it’s too windy, and there are gusts of wind, rather than a constant wind, the turbine automatically shuts off. The turbine cannot take on winds stronger than 40 miles per house and can only take 1,500 kilowatts of energy at a time. The excess energy cannot be stored for another day when there is no wind. On the days when there is no wind, the town would revert back to the energy coming from the grid.
However, Shah said they have done research in Scituate, and in particular on the Driftway, which estimated the average amount of wind that area of town gets would generate enough electricity to save the town money. In Scituate, it’s estimated the town will save $200,000 a year in energy costs.
“We have done the research and looked at the statistics for the past 40 years, so we have a pretty good statistical analysis of what to expect in a good year and a bad year in Scituate,” said Shah. “But even in the worst year in 100 years, we would still be able to pay the bank back.”
Frederick Laskey, executive director of MWRA, said he has been very happy with the Charlestown wind turbine.
“It’s been very reliable so far,” said Laskey, as he knocked on wood. “It’s worked out very well and not only is it supplying us with a lot of power, but also a lot of (attention). We’re one mile from the State House and everyone is talking about it there.”
Shah said he has encountered people who were not as enthusiastic as Laskey when installing turbines in other towns. However, he said, in Scituate, the public has seemed to be very accepting of the idea.
Kathleen Loftus of Scituate’s renewable energy committee was also there for the tour and she agreed with Shah.
“I think people are for it and I think they are excited about it. There’s no down side,” said Loftus, adding the project was something the taxpayers did not have to pay for the turbine, but are going to benefit from it.
In the future Shah will conduct a similar tour of the Scituate turbine.
Scituate wind turbine at a glance
Bringing a wind turbine to Scituate has been in the works for several years, in particular before the Renewable Energy Committee. Town Meeting approved the leasing of the land along the Driftway for the purpose of a turbine in April 2009.
Less than a year later in January 2010 a contract was signed between the town and private developer, Scituate Wind LLC, to fund the construction of the turbine. The contract guarantees the town’s electricity costs for the next 15 years. The cost starts at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour and goes up one percent each year for the next 15 years. Currently the town pays 14-cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity.
The savings will go into a revolving fund to be managed by the town administrator and the director of the department of public works, an act that was passed at Town Meeting April 2011.
Construction of the base of the turbine, which is planted 65 feet into the ground, began in July 2011. The turbine being delivered in January and town officials expect to have it functioning by March 2012.
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