2017-10-26 / News

Options for turbine point to removal, but what next?

By Grant McPherson
Staff Writer

SACO – The defunct wind turbine in front of the Amtrak Station is expected to be removed before the end of the year. City officials are already discussing what might take its place.

Wyman & Simpson, Inc., a Richmond-based construction company, submitted the only bid to the public works department for $30,000 to remove the turbine. Public Works Director Patrick Fox said the bid was much higher than expected and city officials will speak to Wyman & Simpson about lowering the cost of the project. If that isn’t possible, Fox said the city will reach out to other local companies that have done similar work to find an affordable price for the removal of the turbine.

The turbine was installed in 2007 for $200,000 by Entegrity Wind Systems. The company went bankrupt a year later and the turbine has since been plagued with issues. It was shut off in summer 2016 with no money in the budget allocated for repairs.

Fox hoped money could be made by selling the scrap steel parts of the turbine, but said that was unlikely because the steel market is not doing well at the moment.

“If we get some money back for the turbine, that’ll be great,” Fox said. “But if not we’ll be paying a contractor to remove it.”

The company that removes the turbine will have to submit traffic control measures and review a safety plan. Fox said he estimated the work would take no more than two days.

“I would expect it to be taken down most likely sometime in November or December,” he said.

Ward 7 Councilor Nathan Johnston started research about a year ago to determine whether the turbine could be made operational again or parts from it could be salvaged. He started by contacting every other city or town in the country that had purchased a turbine from Entegrity Wind Systems.

“I was wondering if it was just us or something that was prevalent in all of them,” he said. “Through that I found seven different municipalities or school districts that also bought them. I got in contact with them and they were shocked ours had been (in operation) this long. A good amount of them spent several hundred thousand dollars purchasing numerous ones and within two years they were no longer operational.”

The majority of schools Johnston contacted were in Kansas, but Alaska and Illinois school districts also bought Entegrity Wind Systems turbines

Johnston then spoke with technicians at General Electric and other companies to get a sense of how much it might cost to retrofit the turbine. He said the total cost to rehab the turbine was estimated to be $100,000. The other problem he faced was that GE was accustomed to servicing closer to 50 turbines on a farm, as opposed to just one.

“Even if it could have been rehabbed at one point and retrofitted with modern technology it probably could have only produced a 15 to 20 percent increase anyway,” Johnston said.

Entegrity Wind Systems had guaranteed to make up the difference in energy produced by the turbine and what was predicted before the company went bankrupt.

“Hopefully we live and learn,” Johnston said. “I think with any purchase now, particularly in the field of energy, we’ll do our due diligence and stick to those known companies that have a history of doing these types of things.”

While the turbine and tower supporting it will be removed, the concrete platform beneath it will remain. Saco Energy and Sustainability Committee members plan to reach out to community organizations and residents to better understand what should replace the turbine.

“We want to plan something that will be a community project,” Johnston said. “There’s some discussion of a gazebo with a solar array; maybe a food truck center in that area able to grab power from whatever is generating it there. Overall we want to make that portion of the train station more inviting to citizens. We want to continue what we started and are committed to alternate energies.”

Contact Staff Writer Grant McPherson at news@inthecourier.com.

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