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WHY IT'S COOL: Although 19 community-scale wind turbines operate in Massachusetts, Falmouth's is the first that's municipally owned and maintained. Photo: United States Air Force

By: Micheal Fielding

PROJECT INFO

Name: Wind Turbine
Client: Falmouth, Mass., Department of Public Works
AEC firm: Weston & Sampson Engineers Inc.
Cost: $4.3 million
Project delivery method: Design-bid-build
Completed: December 2009

On average, this picturesque Cape Cod community spends about 15 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) for electricity. But officials have capitalized on their coastal location and gusty winds by installing a 1.65-megawatt (MW) wind turbine.

Towering 262 feet above the town's 1.2-mgd wastewater treatment plant, the Vestas V82 is designed to produce about 30% of the 11.5 million kWh consumed by all municipal facilities for $200,000 in annual savings. “One turbine produces three times more than the plant needs in one year,” says Steve Wiehe, project manager for Weston & Sampson, which designed the installation.

The turbine is connected to the electric-distribution grid owned by energy provider NStar. Excess power flows onto the grid, turning the town's meter backward and providing the town with a credit that officials then apply to other municipal electric accounts.

A second 1.65-MW turbine is being built on the plant's 240-acre site and is expected to be on-line by fall.

The project was made possible by the state's Green Communities Act of 2008, which allows owners of wind turbines to sell excess electricity into the grid (called “net-metering”). It was funded partially by a $2.9 million grant through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Program/Community Wind Collaborative.

Production peaked May 9, when the unit churned out almost 35,000 kWh. After residents complained about noise, though, officials decided to turn it off whenever winds gust past 22 mph. Since then, maximum capacity has been 12,400 kWh/day.