VERGENNES – The newest addition to the Vergennes landscape towers over the Northlands Job Corps campus and is capable of powering 20 homes.
On Dec. 30, Vermont contractors Engineers Construction and Encore Redevelopment finished installing a 121-foot-tall wind turbine on a knoll on the north end of the Northlands Job Corps campus.
The windmill, built in Barre by Northern Power Systems, will be owned and operated by Green Mountain Power, but the Vergennes job-training center will receive 10 percent of its power output.
In 2011, Northlands applied for and won the right to host the first wind turbine installation of the Green Mountain Power and Northern Power Systems Community Wind Partnership, which was created to promote local wind power.
According to GMP, Northlands was chosen from among more than 60 schools and nonprofit entities based on the quality of its site, proximity to needed three-phase power, and its educational mission.
Northlands business and community liaison Ian McGaughey said the center’s share of the power won’t be huge, but the windmill shows Northlands’ commitment to environmental responsibility.
“It’s not going to power the whole center, probably the admin building,” McGaughey said. “But it is a good symbol that we are committed to renewable energy.”
New Center Director Dennis Lamberd said the windmill fits in with Northlands’ mission. For example, six of the center’s trades now incorporate environmentally responsible techniques into training: auto mechanics, auto body, carpentry, urban forestry, welding and facilities maintenance.
“Northlands has a long history of pursuing green initiatives, from training students for careers in the green economy, to our campus-wide recycling program and use of environmentally friendly cleaning products. The wind turbine is an important addition to that mission,” Lamberd said. “Today’s students need to be aware of the need for local generation of power, and to practice stewardship of the community and its environment.”
GMP spokeswoman Dottie Schnure said the company plans to continue its partnership with Northern Power Systems, although no new installation is now on the drawing board.
“We’re hoping to do more,” Schnure said. “We don’t have anything specific yet.”
In announcing Northlands had won the site competition in September, GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said the company sees small, community-based power generation as a major part of the state’s energy picture.
“This is just the first of what we hope to be many Vermont-made community-scale wind turbines in our state,” said Powell. “Distributed generation, where customers and communities produce their own electricity, is going to play an increasingly important role in our energy future. We want to help our customers realize this future in the easiest and most cost-effective way possible.”
GMP will own, maintain and operate the windmill, meaning Northlands gets its symbol and its electricity for nothing except the trouble of filling out the winning submission.
McGaughey said Northlands officials will probably point to the windmill when they introduce new students to the campus as an example of the center’s commitment to the environment.
“There’s no cost to us,” McGaughey said. “It’s a great fit for us being an educational institution.”