KITTERY, Maine – Following a failure of electricity production, mechanical issues and bankruptcy of the installation company, the last chapter of the town’s 2008 wind turbine is likely removal.
The 125-foot-tall turbine, at Kittery’s transfer station, was installed in 2008 following voter approval after a concerted effort by town employees, residents and the Kittery Energy Advisory Committee. Colorado-based Entegrity Wind Systems constructed the turbine on a $185,000 bid, with the intention of providing energy for the transfer station and nearby Shapleigh Middle School. The generated power was fed into the CMP electrical system grid for less than a year, until the turbine experienced mechanical problems, resulting in an output total of only 15 percent of its predicted power generation.
According to published reports, Entegrity, citing an analysis of wind maps for the site, estimated the turbine would produce 80,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, which, at 2007′s 10 cents per kilowatt hour costs of electricity, meant $8,000 per year in savings for the town.
However, in 2009, Entegrity visited the transfer station and revealed to then-Town Manager Jon Carter that the area was never properly sited and the turbine would not produce the promised electricity. The town was assured reimbursements, but Entegrity went bankrupt within a few months and the town was not able to recoup its losses, according to a recent report produced by Kittery Energy and Sustainability Advisory Committee members outlining recommendations for the fate of the turbine.
Carter had praised the turbine in December 2008.
“The wind turbine is both a statement and an educational example by the town,” he said at the time. “We are open to experimenting with alternative energy by implementing a sustainable energy project in a prominent public facility that benefits both the town and school departments, not only in its energy production, but in its ability to educate the general public and school-age children.”
Carter, in June 2009, when discussing plans for Entegrity to remove the failed turbine and reimburse the town, said, “I am very disappointed, but the lessons learned are very valuable. We’re not going to proceed to install this sized turbine again without a clear understanding of the wind sustainability and location.”
In 2010, after Entegrity went bankrupt and could not remove the turbine or reimburse the town, the Town Council voted 7-0 to consider a proposal from Western Community Energy of Portland, Oregon, to sell the turbine and the pole for $130,000. That did not come to fruition and the turbine remains at the transfer station but is no longer connected to the grid.
The current Town Council gave an overwhelming consensus last week for the town to divest itself of the turbine through a surplus and disposal, likely done through a request for proposal. Energy Committee members Julia O’Connell and Steve Bilski, a retired wind turbine design engineer, submitted a thorough report to Town Manager Kendra Amaral detailing five options for the town to consider, including repurposing, selling for parts, use as an educational tool and allowing it to remain in place.
The “best-case scenario,” according to O’Connell and Bilski, is to generate an RFP to educational institutions that have expressed interest, including Northern Maine Community College or Prince Edward Island University in Canada. Another option would be to request bids “as is” with a requirement of the winning bidder to remove it.
In O’Connell and Bilski’s report, it states prices quoted in 2017 for the necessary repairs of the turbine were approximately $18,777 or $14,736, if the technician could piggyback the Kittery service onto existing service calls in the Northeast. O’Connell and Bilski said they couldn’t find any local companies to do the repairs, and the original maintenance company from 2010 could no longer service a machine as such. Necessary repairs included replacements of the plates at the ends of the turbine’s blades, corrosion, twist-cable disconnection and others.
“A thorough analysis of wind data was completed to determine if it is a viable option to resurrect and repair the turbine,” the report said. It was concluded the turbine could not be expected to generate an economic gain from continued operation over any given period of time.
At Wednesday’s Town Council meeting, Amaral said since her arrival in 2016, “the question has certainly been, ‘What are we doing with this wind turbine?’” Amaral sought Town Council’s consensus to implement the first option, “for someone to come and take it off site and take it off our hands.” The council agreed.
Bilski said there was due diligence that “didn’t quite arrive” when the unit was sited for the transfer station. In addition, the wind speed for that area did not meet expectation. It was thought to be 5 meters per second, but actually came in around 3.2 meters per second, he said.
“Unfortunately, we’re just in an area it just wasn’t intended for,” Bilski said.
Councilor Matt Brock said in the future, he hoped Kittery will “do a little better job” matching technology to a site if an opportunity as such arises again.
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