DARTMOUTH – If you were on campus Monday afternoon and thought the UMass Dartmouth landscape looked different, you’re right.
Crews dismantled the sole wind turbine on the sprawling grounds a little after 1 p.m. after eight years of its mediocre performance, according to university officials.
“The sad fact is that it just never worked right to begin with,” said Jamie Jacquart, Assistant Director for the Office of Campus Sustainability & Residential Initiatives.
“It runs one day, then doesn’t run the next, and at some point we just stopped with the service contract and said, ‘let’s really review this,’ and the decision was finally made to take it down.”
Jacquart explained that when the university acquired the turbine in 2012, hopes were high for an inexpensive service contract while its power output would equate to roughly one percent of the campus energy usage. He said the turbine would frequently break down and generate less and less electricity every time it broke, eventually costing the school more money to maintain it than it was generating.
UMass had acquired the turbine second-hand from Cape Cod Community College in Barnstable, which decided to pass on the technology following pressure from the surrounding community to not install it. Jacquart said it was then stored at Otis Air Force Base for about a year.
“The model name is an Elecon. The company had gone out of business and there were only six of them (specific model of turbine) in the United States and five of them didn’t work properly. Ours was one of those five. It was relatively hard to find a service technician that had ever worked on one or knew or understood what the challenges were,” Jacquart explained.
“When they gave us the green light to go ahead, and it was donated for free from the Mass Clean Energy Center, we had to pay for the siting of it – to get it there and pay for the trenching for electricity and other expenses. It was already an older model at that point, and it was at Otis Air Force Base for about a year in a marine environment, so salt air kind of got into everything,” he said.
The turbine was taken down by Down & Out Industries, LLC., of Londonderry, New Hampshire. The company, which routinely handles the deconstruction of large structures such as wind turbines, cut the half the circumference of tower at the bottom with a welding torch before it was brought to the ground by a line attached to the top of the structure. The line used to tear it down was pulled by an excavator.
“We measured everything off, calculated the distance of the line we needed. We have a machine back over there that pulled it down. It was basically as simple as it could be, we just notched it like a tree and dropped it,” said Stephen Draper, the man supervising the job for Down and Out Industries.
Draper said the scrap metal is going to be brought to Spiegel South Shore Scrap Metal Inc., of Brockton, while any remaining unsalvageable trash would be brought to C. Carney Environmental, a commercial recycling service out of Raynham.
“It never really worked well from the beginning. They were supposed to build it and after it ran correctly for 30 days, we were supposed to take over possession of it. It took three years for them to get it to run for 30 consecutive days,” Jacquart said, stating that the ultimate decision to tear the turbine down came last year, when the bids for a service contract went up “significantly,” something he said caused school officials to reevaluate its cost-effectiveness.
“We’re sad to see it go because we believe in the technology, it’s just that unfortunately we got a lemon. We’re open to another wind turbine or other types of alternative energy. We’re actually in the middle of doing a big energy master plan, which we’re very excited about as we look to meet our carbon neutral goals by 2030. We’ll be making some announcements of what that plan is going to look like in December, when we have it completed,” he said.
Due to the sparks produced by the welding work to the turbine, Dartmouth fire personnel were also on scene as the U.S. Drought Monitor has classified Bristol County as being under an “extreme” drought, and the subsequent increased risk of brush and wild fire.