PRESQUE ISLE, MAINE — The winds of change are blowing across the campus of the University of Maine at Presque Isle, and drafts from that transformation could be felt at other campuses across the state and nation, UMPI President Don Zillman said Wednesday.
University officials announced Wednesday that the campus expects to begin generating clean energy in late spring 2009 after reaching an agreement with general contractor Lumus Construction Inc. on a $2 million project to install a 600-kilowatt wind turbine on the northern Maine campus.
This agreement establishes UMPI as the first university in the state and one of only a handful in New England to install a midsize wind turbine, according to officials.
University officials announced their intentions to build a wind turbine on campus last May. They anticipate that the 600-kilowatt turbine to be installed will produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. Once fully operational, the turbine is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
The campus already has broken ground on the project and a road leading to where the windmill will be located — approximately 30 yards from the baseball fields — already has been completed, Zillman said Wednesday.
“People here are just really excited that we have finally broken ground on this project and that the machinery is here and this project is a ‘go,’” he said. “This will be power for our own campus use, and it is going to be a huge benefit to us.”
The project will be financed by UMPI’s “own internal savings” over the past few years, together with a $50,000 grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Students have been enthusiastic about the project, said Zillman, who added he had not heard any objections from the public about the windmill’s installation.
“We’ve been very public about this project, and I’ve heard no objections,” he said. “Of course, there will always be people out there who object to windmills or think they are ugly, but we have not heard that here.”
Zillman said that every UMaine campus is “unique in the resources it has” to become greener, but he said he felt UMPI’s project could encourage other colleges to explore alternative energy. He noted that he recently returned from a visit to the University of Maine at Farmington, which already has two newly constructed “green” buildings.
“We are probably the windiest of the campuses here, so this was a good fit for us,” Zillman said.
University officials are hoping good weather will prevail for the next few weeks so that construction crews can install the base of the windmill. The turbine will be shipped to campus from India.
The campus is hoping to have the windmill fully operational by April or early June at the latest, according to Zillman.