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UMPI exploring new energy project following fire in wind turbine

With the insurance investigation recently completed regarding the fire that occurred last year in the wind turbine, officials with the University of Maine at Presque Isle are exploring a new alternative energy project that will generate the same level of electricity.

The insurance investigation confirmed that the April 2018 fire in the nacelle of the wind turbine was caused by a mechanical failure. The late night fire burned itself out in about 45 minutes; the nacelle was a total loss. The claim will cover the cost of the event, the clean-up, and the wind turbine itself, at its depreciated value.

With the insurance claim in process, UMPI officials are exploring alternative energy project options in consultation with the campus’s Green Committee.

“We’re working closely with our Green Committee to ensure that any new project replaces the energy that was produced by the wind turbine,” Ben Shaw, UMPI Chief Business Officer, said. “We’ve been discussing a whole range of options, from a new wind turbine to solar.”

Following the Green Committee’s recommendation, the University is looking into a potential solar array that could be located at the wind turbine site and use the infrastructure located there to connect to the campus grid. The array would need to match the output generated by the wind turbine while staying within the amount of the insurance claim. The University is going through the process to find a design firm to design the project. If it pursues this option, the project could be installed in the summer of 2020.

“This will result in a design that we can then use to make decisions about how best to move forward,” Shaw said. “It’s important to note that this is not a final decision about whether UMPI will establish a solar array, but it will allow us to make a detailed comparison of our alternative energy options and what will work best long-term for our campus.”

The University currently has a 90-panel solar array, comprised of fixed roof panels, on the roof of Folsom-Pullen Hall.