News & Events

University, Lumus Construction Inc. announce details of $2 million wind turbine project

Officials from the University of Maine at Presque Isle and Lumus Construction Inc. held a press conference on Monday, Nov. 24 at 11 a.m. to announce the details of their $2 million project to install a 600 kW wind turbine on the northern Maine campus. 

The project establishes UMPI as the first university in the State of Maine and one of only a handful in New England to install a mid-size wind turbine. The turbine will produce about 1 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year and is expected to save the institution more than $100,000 annually in electricity charges. It also will 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.

“We are so very pleased to be announcing the details of this historic project, which will help to meet the campus’s energy needs, significantly reduce our energy costs, and help us to leave a much small carbon footprint,” President Don Zillman said. “This is the most significant renewable energy project we, as a campus, have ever undertaken, and we are both proud and humbled to be stepping forward as a statewide leader in the utilization of wind as a renewable energy resource.”

Construction work on the project began on Nov. 19, the same day the University and Lumus formally announced their wind project agreement. Sumul Shah, President of Lumus Construction Inc., explained that crews are working to build a strong foundation at the wind turbine site, located near the athletic fields at the southern end of campus. In the last week, workers have been drilling 40-foot-deep holes in order to install anchors into the bedrock underneath the site. They will then pour more than 100 cubic yards of concrete interlaced with steel to create the turbine base.

Turbine blades that are 47 meters in diameter and weigh 8 tons, as well as a 20-ton nacelle – which houses the turbine’s gearbox and generator – are being assembled in Chennai, India by RRB Energy Ltd. The 65-meter turbine tower is being manufactured in the U.S. Officials expect the turbine parts to be shipped starting in January for delivery to the site by March. They hope to erect the turbine in early April and have it ready to produce electricity by the end of April.

“It is a great honor to be part of this project that brings the University of Maine at Presque Isle to the forefront in renewable energy,” Shah said. “Our company has a long history of working on projects that serve the greater good and we are committed to finding innovative and efficient ways to bring renewable energy projects to fruition. We applaud the University’s enthusiasm for producing on-site green energy and thank University officials for allowing us to be a part of this exciting project.”

The University of Maine at Presque Isle announced its intentions to move forward on a wind turbine project 18 months ago, in May 2007. During the Monday morning press conference, Charles Bonin, Vice President of Finance and Administration, and Dave St. Peter, Manager of Physical Facilities, provided an overview of the project’s history. The University first began exploring alternative energy options about five years ago. Geo-thermal energy generation was considered, but officials determined that the option was not feasible, so turned to wind generation.

After talking with the US 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.

University officials decided in April 2007 to move forward with a wind project. Funding for the project is coming from campus – not University of Maine System – reserves, which have been 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 is receiving 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 set out with a major goal of reducing its energy bill, which saw a 40 percent increase in 2007 and was only expected to rise. But another important goal emerged: for the University to serve, through this project, its educational and community roles as a public university.

Officials have 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.

“We are committed to sharing all aspects of our experience with students, the campus, and the community, as well as people in Maine and beyond interested in exploring wind power options of their own,” President Zillman said. “Part of the University’s reason for serving a leadership role in this realm is to fill the classic public university role of being the bold experimenter for projects that can help its community benefit from new knowledge. For this project, that includes providing information about everything from conducting initial wind measurement surveys and feasibility studies to completing contract negotiations and permitting processes to overseeing turbine installation and actual energy generation.”

A new website for the project, www.umpi.edu/wind, will serve as a major resource for anyone who wants to learn more about the University’s alternative energy project. President Don Zillman led a virtual tour of the site during the press conference. He said that information will be added as the University moves toward completion of its wind turbine. The University also intends to incorporate aspects of its wind project into some of the courses it offers, as well as encouraging area schools and other educational institutions to learn about, build into their curriculums, and otherwise take advantage of this resource.

The Monday morning press conference ended with a formal contract signing ceremony between the University and Lumus, led by President Zillman and Sumul Shah, to signify the agreement they have reached and celebrate the site work that already has begun.

For more information about the University of Maine at Presque Isle’s Wind Project, please contact the University’s Media Relations Office at 768-9452.