A Massachusetts energy firm with its share of setbacks promises to get a wind turbine spinning this year in Crisfield.
Aeronautica Windpower LLC expects to deliver not two, but one, commercial-scaled turbine to the city now that the Somerset Board of Education says ‘no’ to a turbine near Carter G. Woodson Elementary School.
Hiring a blade manufacturer is a major step before Aeronautica can get back on schedule since its turbine blade producer, named Energetic, dissolved and shut down before building blades slated for Crisfield.
Another big task is to transport, perhaps across country, two, 95-foot molds to shape the fiberglass blades. The molds, at an Energetic facility in Michigan, would be shipped to the new blade maker.
“The turbine’s coming – it’s delayed,” said Tim Stearns, chief operating officer at Aeronautica. “It’ll be in this calendar year.”
Crisfield elected officials had expected the 300-foot wind-capturing machine to be up and running by now at the Crisfield sewage plant on Dixon Street. Several sources of funding to the city are paying for the $4 million or more turbine project.
The city would save between $150,000 and $200,000 annually once the 750-kilowatt wind turbine is erected. That would equate to a minimum monthly savings of over $12,500, unspent dollars for the financially strapped city in search of funding to fill a vacant city manager’s post.
“Hopefully, it will be finalized in a couple of weeks,” Stearns said. “It is a matter of getting molds out of bankruptcy proceedings. Once they’re moved from Energetic, we’ve got to negotiate with a new blade company, and there are only a handful of them in the country.
“We haven’t closed a deal yet,” he said.
Aeronautica is an equipment supplier in Plymouth, Mass., and responsible for providing the tower, blades and a blade generator bracket called a nacelle. Plans were delayed in February, when Energetic’s parent company filed bankruptcy before the three blades were made.
Finding a replacement isn’t that easy.
“The wind industry is shrinking from all evidence,” said Jim Merrell, general contractor on the sewage plant project. “From my point, the industry is changing to really big turbines, and Crisfield is not getting a big one. The size we’re looking at is running into a supply problem.”
Industrial-scale turbine producer Pioneer Green Energy met stiff opposition in the county, and just abandoned plans for a controversial farm of about 25 machines over 500 feet tall. The project, in Westover, would have been the first large-scale turbine project in the region.
Aeronautica’s single turbine now becomes the largest in Somerset County in height and capacity. “The beauty of our turbine is that it is a community-scale machine, not so imposing, and none of the wind farms are putting them in,” Stearns said.
No school deal
Aeronautia couldn’t sway the Somerset school district to power several buildings with energy from a turbine proposed nearby Woodson school off Calvary Road.
This week, Superintendent John Gaddis confirmed that a recent letter to Aeronautica expresses the school board’s lack of support.
“I received a letter two weeks ago” from Aeronautica, “and a letter has been sent back telling this group that the board is not interested in doing anything with wind turbines, or purchasing power, from any other source but the current one we have,” the superintendent said in a statement.
“The board was very clear that they will continue to monitor projects, but will not be signing any agreements with anyone in the near future,” Gaddis also said.
According to Merrell, parties are close to a deal to make blades at a Texas manufacturer.
“We’ve got to wait for a delivery date and mobilize equipment down there to put them up,” he said.
“Off-road cranes will be coming down out of Philadelphia. It takes five-to-six tractor trailers to haul one crane,” he also said.
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