Maine has long been famous for its scenic beauty, lobster fishing, and the conifer forests that gave it the nickname of The Pine Tree State.
These days it is coming increasingly to the fore in embracing renewable energy resources, thereby gaining a growing reputation for its leadership in companies constructing and maintaining wind power facilities both within the state and outside it. Maine itself has set a goal of generating 3,000 megawatts of electricity from wind power by 2020.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the first major wind farm contract in Massachusetts was awarded this year to Reed & Reed Inc., general contractor and leading wind energy company based in Woolwich, Maine.
The company’s work in wind power construction began in Maine in 2006, when it built the Mars Hill project in the town of that name for UPC Wind Power LLC, based in Newton, Mass. Completed in January 2007 at a cost of $55 million, it was then the first and largest commercial wind farm in New England. Reed & Reed handled design, excavation, back fill, and construction for the project as well as installation of electrical systems and erection of 28 wind turbine generators (WTGs).
Since then Reed & Reed has completed three such projects in Maine, and one apiece in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The company has built or is building virtually all commercial/utility scale wind projects in New England. The largest is the Kibby Mountain Wind Power Project in western Maine, which will produce 132 megawatts of renewable power when completed in September 2010.
The company’s current Massachusetts job calls for constructing a 15 megawatt wind farm atop 2,621 ft. (799 m) high Brodie Mountain near Hancock, Mass., in the western part of the state. Reed & Reed’s $10 million contract — part of a total project costing approximately $46 million, which covers purchase of the turbines, development expenses, land acquisition, and so on — is on behalf of the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corporation (BWPCC), a coalition of 14 Massachusetts municipal utility companies. The project, originally owned by Distributed Generations Systems, headquartered in Lakewood, Colo., was purchased by the Cooperative in June 2008 for $4 million.
The first commercial wind farm in Massachusetts, the job involves not only construction of 10 anchored pads and erecting the GE 1.5 megawatt SLE wind turbine generators but also designing and building 3.5 mi. (5.6 km) of ridgeline and access roads, a 3.5 mi. long overhead collector system, and a substation, as well as transporting WTG components to the work sites for assembly. In addition, the company carried out civil and electrical design work and is handling safety management and quality control for the job.
Work began in summer 2009 and by September site work and foundation installation were well advanced. Turbine erection began late the same month, using a company-owned Manitowoc M-16000 heavy erection crane. These cranes have a 440-ton (399 t) capacity and are specially designed for erecting turbines.
“For major equipment on site we not only had the M-16000 but also our new Grove 225-ton all-terrain crane, one 150-ton crane loading components, two 50-ton Link-Belt rough-terrain cranes, and numerous pieces of support equipment such as loaders, forklifts, trucks, etc,” Reed & Reed CEO Jackson Parker said.
“Our major site subcontractors for the project are all Massachusetts based companies. Guntlow Associates, MD Drilling and Blasting, and McManus Excavating worked in concert with us in designing and constructing the ridgeline roads and turbine work pads to facilitate the transport, delivery and installation of the turbine components to the assembly pads,” he added. “These local companies, combined with their subcontractors, employed more than 75 people on site during the survey, erosion control, clearing, blasting, and site work operations. Equipment used during this period consisted of commercial logging equipment, drill rigs, off-road haul trucks, excavators, dozers, water trucks, and support equipment. During the start of erection the site work and foundation operations were well advanced and the daily onsite manpower at that point in the project averaged 115 people.”
Currently, four turbines and three other tower sections are in place though not yet hooked into the grid, but completion of the project has been unexpectedly delayed due to a temporary court ordered shut down in November 2009. The injunction does not involve Reed & Reed directly but relates to a dispute between the Berkshire Wind Power Cooperative Corporation and Silverleaf Resorts Inc., concerning an 8/10th mi. portion of the mountain access road. Silverleaf plans to construct more than 300 vacation condominiums at the foot of Brodie Mountain and the issue is whether the 2004 road permit issued to the Cooperative has expired because “substantial construction” did not begin within the year the permit ran.
“Turbine components were delivered on time so completion was expected well in advance of the original February 2010 date before the shut down was ordered. Had it not been the case, we would have erected our one hundredth wind turbine in the course of the job, having erected turbine No. 95 when work was stopped,” Parker said. “However, we reached No. 100 on our Stetson 2 project a few weeks ago. It was a very important milestone for Reed & Reed as we take great pride in our leadership role in wind power construction. As far as we know, no other New England contractor has erected more than three or four turbines and we’re over 100. I am extremely proud of the way our crews have committed themselves to performing this work to the very highest standards for safety, quality, and performance.”
Stetson Mountain near Danforth, Maine, is home to the existing Stetson 1 wind project, which hosts 38 turbines. Reed & Reed is currently constructing Phase 2, which will provide an additional 17 state-of-the-art GE 1.5 megawatt wind turbines.
At the outset of its work on the Berkshire project, Reed & Reed had reinforced a bridge on Pease Road in nearby Stephentown, N.Y., to permit trucks carrying towers, blades, and other turbine components to safely cross Kinderhook Creek. The span’s beams and abutments were in such bad condition that the bridge was closed to vehicular traffic 15 years ago, and the company was required to return the bridge to its original state before leaving the jobsite.
At this point the components for the remaining wind turbines are in the storage yard awaiting delivery, and it is anticipated that a new bridge on Route 22 will be in place when work on the turbines begins again. The bridge was under construction last fall and so not passable by the oversize truck loads Reed & Reed were operating. Although the wind farm project will be idle until spring or summer or possibly longer, depending on when the case is decided, once the job is completed electricity from the 385 ft. high turbines will supply 6,000 homes and businesses.
In addition to the Berkshire, Kibby, Record Hill, and Stetson 2 projects, Reed & Reed is currently providing pre-construction services and is in active negotiations for several other wind projects in New England. “The next few years look to be very busy in the wind power sector,” Parker observed.
Meanwhile, back in Maine, as part of its efforts on behalf of the industry, the Maine Wind Industry Initiative (MWII) is collating information on businesses in the state that are involved in this particular area of construction. Part of the Initiative’s aims is to promote Maine companies’ wealth of knowledge, experience, and expertise in all matters relating to wind farms, thus increasing business opportunities for its members both within and outside the state.
Reed & Reed Inc., was among the Initiative’s founding members and representatives of the company traveled to Europe in September 2009 with the governor of Maine and a number of Initiative members to promote renewable energy development in the state. Wind power is common in Europe and the trip permitted participants to visit German and Spanish companies working in wind power, tour facilities, and promote Maine’s leadership in this type of utility generation.
The company is particularly proud of its record in Maine, where it built all the current commercial wind farms in the state. It has won numerous business and safety honors, most recently one of four 2009 Maine Development Foundation’s Champions of Economic Development Awards.
In accepting the Maine Development Foundation Champion award on behalf of Reed & Reed, Parker noted that the company’s projects are carried out in partnership with the communities in which they are located. “Local subcontractors benefit, as do dozens of other local businesses,” he said.
“We patronize local businesses and other services. Before we leave, we make sure the local fire department has high angle training in rescue techniques, and we have been supportive of community needs while we are in the area.”
For example, while working on the Kibby project near Stratton, Maine, the company provided equipment, frisbees, and other toys to the local Recreational Department for its popular summer program for children.
Reed & Reed’s Kibby Wind Power Project received word in January that it is the first wind project in the nation to be recognized by OSHA’s Safety And Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP). This award makes Reed & Reed one of only three construction companies among the less than 1,200 small work sites thus honored nation-wide since the program began in 1995.
There is no doubt wind farms will increasingly become major ventures in both construction work and energy production in the United States. As Parker said, “when foreign oil prices spike, the cost of electricity produced by the wind doesn’t change. Wind is free fuel. Company founder Captain Josiah Winship Reed retired from a career sailing wooden ships to start the company. Then as now, the wind sustains our progress. He would be so proud to know that his legacy lives on, and today the company’s work is being driven by the wind.”
Today's top stories