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Braden Theater to host official film premiere on UMPI’s Wind Project

Monday, 09 November 2009

The University of Maine at Presque Isle's wind project will appear on the big screen for one night only when the Braden Theater hosts the official film premiere of Wind 101: The University of Maine at Presque Isle Builds a Wind Turbine on Thursday, Nov. 19 from 5-6:30 p.m.

The half-hour long, high definition film, directed by local videographer and filmmaker Frank Grant and narrated by long-time theater professor Joseph Zubrick, follows the step-by-step process it took for the University to complete this major renewable energy project - from the very first energy survey to the very last installation detail - and the bumps encountered along the way. This film also shows the work the University has done to turn this project into an educational opportunity for its students and the greater community.

The film premiere will include a social time with hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar prior to the screening, which is set to begin at around 5:30 p.m. Following the film showing, there will be a short question and answer session with the filmmakers and University officials highly involved in the project.

The night of the film premiere is an important anniversary for the University - on Nov. 19, 2008, construction work officially began on the University's 600 kW wind turbine, the very first mid-size wind turbine to be installed on a University campus in the State of Maine.

The University's wind 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. During its first months of operation, there have been many days when the wind turbine generated enough electricity to supply all of the University's energy needs. However, the wind is expected to blow harder and more consistently during the winter months ahead, so officials are eagerly waiting to learn how well the turbine performs over the course of its first year.

The University first began exploring alternative energy options about five years ago when its Gentile Hall building project was underway. Geo-thermal energy generation was considered, but officials determined that the option was not feasible, so turned to wind generation and hired the Bangor firm Woodard & Curran to serve as a consultant on the project.

After talking with the U.S. Department of Energy about wind power, the University was directed to the University of Massachusetts at Amherst's Renewable Energy Research Laboratory. RERL installed wind monitoring equipment in a field next to the tennis courts on Nov. 21, 2004. The data received indicated that a wind turbine would be a fiscally feasible venture for the University.

The University announced its intentions to move forward on a wind turbine project on May 3, 2007. In preparing for the arrival of heavy machinery and turbine parts, the University received support from the Maine Army National Guard, which made significant improvements to the road leading to the turbine site. After securing the proper permits and completing contract negotiations, the University signed an agreement with Lumus Construction, Inc. to build the turbine.

After construction work began in November 2008, foundation work was completed during the winter, and in late February 2009, the tower parts, which were manufactured in North Dakota, began arriving. On April 15, 2009 the blades, hub and nacelle - manufactured in Chennai, India - were delivered, and in just four days, the turbine was completely assembled. Crews completed interior equipment installation, electrical hook-up work with the help of Maine Public Service Company, and diagnostic tests, so that the turbine would be able to begin spinning in mid-May.

Local contractors who assisted in this project include: Soderberg Construction of Caribou, S. W. Cole Engineering of Caribou, County Electric Inc. of Caribou, Masse Earthworks of Caribou, Langille Construction of Presque Isle, Energy Service Partners of Presque Isle, and K-PEL Industrial Services Inc. of Fort Fairfield.

Funding for the project came from campus reserves built up through more than 20 years of careful financial stewardship. The University received a $50,000 Voluntary Renewable Resources Fund grant from the Maine Public Utilities Commission to go toward the project. The University also received assistance from the Rebuild America grant program through Efficiency Maine as administered by the University of Maine System's System-wide Services. The grant program paid for the wind feasibility study and has helped with engineering fees.

The University originally set forth on this project for several reasons: a serious campus commitment to renewable energy and the reduction of carbon fuel use and global warming; a desire to serve the community as a pioneer in projects that others might want to pursue themselves; a desire to increase the educational programs both for UMPI students and for students around the state; and a desire to reduce its $375,000 annual electric bill, which is only expected to go higher over the next two decades.

Officials promised to make the wind turbine project very public and show all sides of completing an alternative energy project - both the value and cost-effectiveness of harnessing natural resources for clean electricity as well as any problems encountered along the way.

With captivating footage that takes the viewer into the classroom, out into the field, and up to the top of the wind turbine, Wind 101 tells this story as only a film can.

There are only 144 seats in the theater and tickets sales are on a first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $10 each and are available at Morning Star Art and Framing on Main St. or at the UMPI Conferences and Special Programs Office in the Campus Center (768-9501). For more information, call 768-9452 or visit www.umpi.edu/wind.