Gloucester – The imminent construction of the largest wind turbine in Massachusetts on the property of Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates in Gloucester is a big deal, both literally and figuratively.
When completed, the turbine will feature a 100-meter tall steel tower, and a 100-meter rotor, which will power a 2.5 megawatt generator. Once completed, the structure will be the largest of its kind in New England.
“There are several turbines in Massachusetts, but I understand this is the largest to date,” explains Varian Director of Facilities Rick Johnson. “There are four in Plymouth, Mass., that are 2.0 megawatt on 80 meter towers. There are others in New Hampshire, Maine, Rhode Island, but I understand this is the largest in the area at this time.”
Even delivery of the parts needed to construct the turbine could be termed a “big deal.” The turbine components were delivered overseas from Wismar, Germany to Boston. From there, the components were loaded onto a barge for transport to Cruiseport Gloucester, with Cruiseport allowing use of the pier and parking lot for off-loading and transportation to the Varian site. Police escorts were necessary for the next leg of the journey.
“We used state and local police,” explains Johnson. “Very large pieces were transported over the road very slowly; [it took] two hours for a two-mile trip.”
With the components now on site at Varian (employees have had to make alternate plans for parking as the company has had to close two parking lots for storage and construction purposes), construction is already under way for the turbine, with the “final lift” of the rotor estimated for Oct. 31, and National Grid “Witness Testing” – the process by which the turbine can gain final grid interconnection approval – scheduled for Nov. 19. JK Scanlan and Baldwin Crane and Equipment have been tasked by Varian to handle site storage and erection logistics for the turbine.
“The construction portion – foundation, electrical – was a regular size-job for us,” says Johnson. “The logistics and erection were a whole new ballgame.”
Once completed and functioning, it’s estimated that the turbine will produce approximately 9.0 million kWh, which translates to a huge savings in power consumption for the company, and reduce emissions into the environment.
“This will supply more than 30 percent of our power consumption here at Varian,” explains Johnson. “By not purchasing that power from the grid – which is generated by fossil fuels – Varian will be improving the regional air quality by reducing carbon dioxide by 3,900 tons a year, nitrous oxide by 0.7 tons a year, sulfur dioxides and particulates by 0.9 tons a year.
He adds, “Ninety-nine of the power generated will be used on site here at Varian. One percent will be sold back to the grid at wholesale price.”
The inclusion of the wind turbine makes sense for a company like Varian, which is a 24-hour-a-day, year-round operation.
“Varian has a great electricity use load profile; we are located on one of the strongest, land-based wind production sites in Massachusetts. Wind is much more efficient, with a faster return on investment than solar,” said Johnson.
The erection of the turbine marks the end of a process that began almost a decade ago.
“It has been nine years from initiation of the Varian turbine to delivery,” says Mayor Carolyn Kirk. “During that time, it took tremendous effort and coordination of many people including City Council, Planning Board, city staff, mayor’s office, the neighborhood and the company. It is a thrill to see such efforts come to fruition.”
Kirk said at a Sawyer Free Library meeting Monday night that Gloucester Engineering is also planning to install two wind turbines. She predicted the savings for the city could be $450,000 a year by powering municipal buildings with wind power.
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