PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — A whipping wind welcomed guests Thursday to the University of Maine at Presque Isle as the same element that blew guests’ hair askew was introduced as the new power source for the campus.
UMPI officially commissioned its new windmill in front of more than 70 people during a ceremony that lasted more than an hour. Presque Isle is the first university campus in the state, and one of only a handful in New England, to install a midsize wind turbine to generate power.
After a few more diagnostic tests, the turbine will begin spinning in mid-May.
The ceremony was held two years after university officials announced their intention to move forward with installing a 600-kilowatt windmill on campus.
Thursday’s fete took place on a day in which a high-wind warning was in effect across several parts of the state. Guests hunched over, bracing themselves against the gusts, and clutched hats and sunglasses to keep them from being blown away when the ceremony briefly moved outside.
The commissioning event featured remarks by local and state officials, while a presentation explained how UMPI’s wind turbine will transform wind into electricity and how that electricity will get from the turbine to campus buildings.
UMPI President Don Zillman said the $2 million turbine project will help fight climate change while reducing the college’s nearly $370,000 annual electric bill.
Lumus Construction Inc. was the general contractor that installed the wind turbine on the northern Maine campus. Company officials attended the ceremony.
Local contractors also assisted with the project.
University officials anticipate the turbine will produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity a year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. Once fully operational, the windmill is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year.
The windmill is located approximately 30 yards from the baseball fields.
Representatives from U.S. Sens. Olympia Snowe’s and Susan Collins’ offices, along with a representative from Rep. Mike Michaud’s office, spoke on behalf of each dignitary during the event. All congratulated UMPI on the successful project.
Snowe said in a written statement that the project “was an ambitious goal to reduce the energy costs and carbon footprint of the UMPI campus,” while Collins said that “creative approaches to energy,” such as the turbine installed by UMPI, “are what we need on a national scale to achieve American energy independence.”
Michaud said UMPI was leading by example, adding that using wind and other domestically available renewable energy resources “is crucial to ensuring that we have access to clean, reliable, diversified and affordable electricity for generations to come.”
University of Maine System Chancellor Richard Pattenaude said the board of trustees was “proud of this wonderful accomplishment.”
“This doesn’t happen easily,” he said Thursday after acknowledging the effort put forth to bring the project to fruition.
The project was financed by UMPI’s internal savings, together with a $50,000 grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission.
Thursday’s commissioning also featured an American Indian drumming song at the turbine site, along with the release of environmentally friendly balloons after a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
To view photos, videos and more details about the project, visit www.umpi.edu/wind.