PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Northern Maine Community College could be the second university in the state, and in the city, to erect a wind turbine on campus if the first step in a long process turns out to be favorable.
College officials announced late last week that NMCC is set to erect a meteorological, or “met,” tower on the north end of campus to measure wind speed and direction. The tower will be used as a teaching tool for students enrolled in NMCC’s training program in wind power technology, the only program of its kind in Maine.
The college collaborated with the Northern Maine Regional Office of the state Department of Environmental Protection to secure an in-kind grant from the Efficiency Maine program to solidify the loan of the 100-foot tower from the University of Maine. Data collected from the site, including information that will determine how much power a wind turbine would generate at the location, will be used by both the college and the DEP.
NMCC President Tim Crowley praised the tower as “a unique learning opportunity” for students in the wind power technology program.
“They will benefit from seeing the process unfold that could eventually lead to the construction of a wind turbine on our campus, and they will benefit from the analysis of the data gathered from this tower,” he added.
Nick Archer, regional director for the DEP in Presque Isle, stressed that the need for green energy sources research and development “is a priority for all Maine citizens.”
“We see a real commitment from Northern Maine Community College to demonstrate, through their actions, efforts to create a sustainable energy program and reduce campus carbon emissions,” he said. “This progress is encouraging, exciting and reflective of the college’s interest in conserving our natural resources.”
Crowley said the tower would be installed on land situated between the residence halls and Skyway Street. The tower is expected to go up in the coming weeks.
A preliminary wind site survey analysis of the area was conducted by the University of Maine to determine site viability.
In September 2008, NMCC launched a first-of-its-kind program in New England geared toward training wind power technicians. The program trains wind power technicians to operate, maintain and repair wind turbine generators. College officials said they were inspired to create the program in light of the growing interest in wind power and NMCC’s proximity to the state’s first commercial wind farm 14 miles from the campus in Mars Hill.
The initial plan was to enroll 18 students in the inaugural class last fall. After demand for the program far exceeded capacity, NMCC officials decided to add a second group and welcomed 36 students into the program that fall.
The struggling economy and the popular program contributed to a 15 percent jump in enrollment at NMCC in January, college officials have said.
If the college eventually erects a wind turbine, it will be the second college in the state to do so. Last May, the University of Maine at Presque Isle turned on its 600-kilowatt wind turbine. The turbine is expected to produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. It is expected to save an estimated 572 tons of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere each year, or the equivalent of removing 123 cars from the road.
At the same time NMCC began investigating wind power, SAD 1 in Presque Isle was doing the same thing. Late last month, two meteorological towers were set up in the district. One of the towers is in the northeast corner of the ball fields at Presque Isle Middle School. Another is on farmland near Mapleton Elementary School.
The towers will stay up for a year. If the data they provide are favorable, the district could consider using windmills to power Mapleton Elementary School and Presque Isle Middle School.