August 14, 2008
Wind Farm Sought in Norway
By Leslie H. Dixon
NORWAY - Wes Wentworth has a vision of windmills on top of Pike's Hill overlooking picturesque Lake Pennesseewassee. The 150-acre Roberts Farm Preserve was once a model dairy farm owned by former Maine Commissioner of Agriculture John A. Roberts.Wentworth of Norway said he hopes his proposal for the town to undertake the project will generate enthusiasm as it did when Saco officials paid $200,000 to put a 100-foot tall turbine just across the Saco River from the historic downtown shopping district in February.
"The monies generated (from energy produced) will save taxpayers. Saco did it," said Wentworth of the turbine Saco erected in hopes of producing at least 90,000 kilowatts of electricity each year and saving about $12,600 in city energy costs.
Wentworth knows Pike's Hill must first be found to produce enough wind to make his idea fly.
The property was once proposed for a technology park, but that was never realized by the Growth Council of Oxford Hills, so it was bought by the Western Foothills Land Trust.
"I'm hoping to have a feasibility test done," said Wentworth, who will try to convince selectmen to pay for a wind-measuring test to see if it makes sense to put up to three turbines on the hill.
So far, Saco's turbine, the first municipally-owned, midsized windmill, hasn't met expectations, but officials aren't worried.
"We put it up in February. We haven't had much wind since we put it up," said Howard Carter, manager of the Saco sewer treatment plant and a proponent of Saco's experiment with wind power, which will eventually power the city's new nearby train station.
"Ballpark? We haven't saved more than $1,000," he said of the Canadian-made turbine that was expected to generate enough energy to payback initial costs in 12 years.
Still, he said, city officials and residents remain optimistic that production levels will increase over time.
Official enthusiasm for Wentworth's plan has been limited, so far.
He first proposed the plan to about half a dozen officials from six local towns last month as they tried to figure ways to recoup hundreds of thousands of dollars they invested in the failed technology park on the hill.
At that meeting, Wentworth suggested placing a turbine so the towns could sell power to the electric grid. But, he said, it would take an initial investment to buy a wind meter.
Most officials simply said they weren't interested.
"We're certainly not willing to invest anything else," said Otisfield Selectmen Hal Ferguson during the July 9 meeting. "It's not in our best interest. Where would the money come from? We would not invest another penny."
Despite the unenthusiastic response, Wentworth said he is determined to push the idea forward.
"I think it's a great idea," said Saco resident Ken Rydzefski as he stood outside his apartment building in Saco's downtown National Historic District just a stone's throw from the Saco turbine, which stood motionless Tuesday morning.
Rydzefski, a downtown Saco resident, lives next to the 100-foot turbine. He said he seldom notices any noise.
"It's pretty cool and it's usually quiet. Sometimes it whines. It's just an annoyance like if you live next to a green light where cars stop and go all the time," Rydzefski said.
It blends into the landscape, adding an interesting architectural element and most of all it sends the message that Saco is green, Rydzefski said.
Carter, the Saco official, said despite the disappointing initial activity, the city has not withdrawn plans to erect other turbines. But those plans are on hold until the first turbine begins to show consistent energy production. It takes 8 mph wind to get the blades moving and an 11 mph minimum to generate power, Carter said.
"On the coast you get high winds in the winter and we're usually flat in the summer," he said. "There hasn't been much wind since we put it up but we're very happy with it."
The city negotiated a deal with the company that sold it the turbine to guarantee a certain amount of energy output each year. If it fails to meet that number, the city will be paid for whatever the shortfall is during the first five years of operation, Carter said.
Additionally, the city is contracted for the purchase of two more turbines at the same locked-in price of $200,000 each.
"It kind of fits with that site. Saco wanted green, lots of green energy," Carter said.
Originally published by Staff Writer.
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