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South Harbor Garage boasts new turbines

Mention wind turbines to any Salem resident and the image likely to spring to mind are the towering white whirlers that dot the North Shore, thanks to a years-in-the-making plan to install such a turbine on Winter Island. But that’s not the only type of turbine. Thanks to the innovations of a local company, a more compact style of turbine may soon change the image of green energy – and it’s getting started on the roof of the South Harbor Station garage.

“This is a neat, one-of-a-kind project that has been completed with no cost to the city of Salem,” said Jason Silva, representative for the mayor’s office. “It’s allowed us to use more green energy.”

The story starts with the turbine, a new vertical model developed by Wing Power Energy. Though headquartered in Burlington, the company has an R&D facility in Salem, which they used to develop the turbines.

“When most people think of turbines, they think of the big controversial ones, but our turbines spin differently,” said Sue Madden Moore, vice president of marketing for Wing Power Energy. “Instead of being hundreds of feet tall, they’re 35 feet tall, and when you’re standing next to them you can’t hear anything.”

The turbines are part of a hybrid generation system that also includes a solar panel and battery for storage.

“When the sun is shining, the solar panels collect energy, and when the sun isn’t shining the wind is usually blowing,” Moore said. “It’s a great combination that’s greener than green and lets us generate power anywhere.”

Each turbine-solar panel hybrid generates approximately 3.5 kilowatts – significantly less than the megawatts generated by a traditional turbine. For comparison, that’s about the amount of electricity used by a small home in a year.

The three turbines at the South Harbor Station were installed in a pilot program joining the efforts of Wing Power Energy, the city of Salem and Verizon. They will power security cameras, a public information billboard, and free wifi for the surrounding businesses.

“Verizon wants to expand its 4G network, and some places where they want to put equipment, they can’t get power. This is a great opportunity for us to get to work with them,” Moore said. “At the end of the pilot period, they are going to donate all the equipment to the city of Salem.”

Silva said that the city was excited to be part of the green initiative, and also that there had been little progress on the city’s other, more controversial turbine.

“There has been some neighborhood opposition around Winter Island, which resulted in us planning additional sound tests which have not yet been completed,” Silva said. “So as of now, there hasn’t been significant progress on the project.”