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Maine Wind Project Now Generating Power for Northaven, Vinalhaven

Thu January 07, 2010 - Northeast Edition
Jay Adams

“One, two three … cut!” With that count, a ribbon was cut, symbolizing three vitally new power sources. Cheers erupted among the crowd, and the largest wind turbine project in Maine’s history began generating power to two key island communities.

With Maine’s Cianbro finishing construction work this summer, Fox Island Wind LLC celebrated new wind power for the towns of North Haven and Vinalhaven, Maine, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in November.

The three gleaming wind turbines promise clean, stable energy power for residents. Gov. John Baldacci, Maine House Speaker Hannah Pingree and Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue were among the dignitaries who spoke at the ceremony in the shadow of the turbines. Hundreds of local residents, including student representatives from the two island schools, also were part of the celebration.

4.5 Megawatts

“It is exciting to see the turbines in operation,” said George Baker, Fox Islands Wind CEO, who also is vice president of Community Wind at the Island Institute. “To see them providing benefits to these islands is the culmination of years of contribution by many people. These island communities are truly leaders in the field of coastal renewable energy.”

Those benefits include 4.5 megawatts of electricity feeding directly into the power distribution system on the two islands. Any surplus power that is generated by the turbines will be sold back to the regional grid via a submarine cable, resulting in further cost benefits for the citizens of Vinalhaven and North Haven. Several other island and coastal communities in Maine are now looking into the possibility of installing similar community-owned wind power projects.

The November ceremony included remarks by several speakers, followed by a locally catered meal for all who attended.

Cianbro’s construction team shut down operations for less than an hour to allow the guests of honor to deliver short speeches and to discuss the importance of the project to the stability of electricity supplies and prices to the islands, as well as to the future of the power industry in Maine.

“When I look at this crowd today, and I listen to the stories about the commitment of the people from these islands in terms of their desire to set a standard for the State of Maine to develop the first offshore island wind project on the east coast, it’s remarkable,” said Vigue. “This is a celebration of people who were committed … to set a standard for the neighborhood, the area, and the State of Maine.”

Cianbro constructed three GE 1.5 megawatt wind turbines on Vinalhaven Island, as well as provided support to the owner through permitting, engineering and procurement of the turbines. The company placed the concrete foundations, installed the collection and interconnect system, as well as the SCADA and communications system.

A Very Unique Challenge

Cianbro faced a very unique challenge by building this project some 12 miles offshore.

This required all construction materials and equipment to be barged to the island. In order to transport the 18 erection crane loads, 27 turbine loads, 30 concrete loads, and all the construction material and equipment to the project site, it required precise logistics, including scheduling and the coordination with the owner, the vendors and marine transportation companies to ensure all material was sent in the most cost effective and safest way possible.

Due to the size of Vinalhaven Island and how its economy depends on fishing and summer tourism, Cianbro worked closely with the community to mitigate any impacts that might have arisen during construction.

The first four wind turbine blades arrived this summer after a smooth seven-hour journey by truck. The four 123-ft. (37.5 m) blades departed Eastport in a two-truck convoy, escorted by state police cruisers. At the time, Cianbro Transportation Supervisor Nick Arena, said, “We had no problems. We had a plan in place and plenty of preparation, and the plan worked well. It was an uneventful job, and I think that’s what we want [all the way through].”

The transport was an event in the rural area. The oversized trailers and their cargo generated curious glances among motorists and bystanders along coastal Route One from Eastport through downtown Machias, Ellsworth and Bucksport.

Then, at Verona Island, the convoy used the new Cianbro-built Penobscot Narrows Bridge to cross the Penobscot River. The trucks traveled onward to Belfast before taking a detour around Rockland to disappear into the Prock Marine Terminal for transport to Vinalhaven Island, 12 miles offshore.

’A Big, Big Deal’

In November, Baldacci said, “The Fox Islands community wind project demonstrates that a local community can harness the power of a local, renewable resource and become an example to the rest of the state and the nation. This new wind installation puts Maine at the cutting edge of renewable energy development, and proves that coastal wind is a viable, low-cost energy source.”

“It is exciting to see the turbines in operation,” added Baker. “To see them providing benefits to these islands is the culmination of years of contribution by many people. These island communities are truly leaders in the field of coastal renewable energy.”

The three huge turbines expect to generate about 11,600 megawatt hours of electricity per year. This is expected to offset 5,400 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Vigue added, “The success of this project is a result of the hard work and cooperation of all the talented people who helped make these wind turbines a reality; from the technical expertise of consultants, subcontractors, and engineers, to the hands-on quality provided by the crews in the field, to the wisdom of island citizens who know a pragmatic solution when they see one.

“As you’ve heard today, this is the most significant and the largest community owned wind project on the Northeast or the East Coast. That is a big, big deal. We have done something that no other community on the entire Eastern Seaboard has been capable of making happen.”

The project is a collaboration of several New England-based companies and organizations, including the Island Institute, Cianbro Corporation, EOS Ventures, Diversified Communications and Fox Islands Electric Cooperative.

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