hullwind

windpower in Hull, Mass.

History

History of Hull’s wind project

Leaving aside the long-ago history (historic manuscripts refer to the tip of the Hull peninsula as “Windmill Point” as far back as the mid 1820s), — this project’s history is based on the work of townspeople in the early 1980s. The town installed a 40KW turbine on an 80-foot tower adjacent to Hull’s High School, now sited on that same historic point of land jutting out into Boston Harbor. The funds came from the Mass. Department of Energy Resources. The windmill’s cost was $78,000.

By spring of 1985 the windmill (some prefer the more precise term wind turbine) was producing energy. It produced a respectable total in its lifetime, between then and early March of 1997 when a windstorm damaged it beyond repair. The failure was due to a malfunction of its blade-tip brakes that 70 mph winds (this is a speed no longer threatening to today’s windmills) were able to do it critical damage. This specific failure was in part due to the school’s staff not being able to keep up with the regular maintenance schedule for the brake mechanisms.

A report in 1996 showed that the machine in its final three years of production, — when it was no longer performing at its best — reduced the school’s electric bills by over 28%. In dollar terms this was a savings of $21,200 to the town. A DOER report had indicated that over its lifetime the windmill had saved the town nearly $70,000. 

By fall of 1997 a group of citizens led by Malcolm Brown and a group of teachers at the High School led by physics teacher Anne Marcks, held meetings to plan what is now called “re-powering” the site. This planning was incorporated into the curriculum of Mrs. Marcks’s physics class, and had good support from both the school and from Hull Municipal Light Plant.

In late 1998 a new group of citizens eager to see the project go forward formed themselves into C.A.R.E. (Citizen Advocates for Renewable Energy), selected officers Malcolm Brown and Andrew Stern, and petitioned Hull Light to take the project on.

The plan was to work in collaboration with UMass Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory.

By fall of 1999 the UMass engineers completed their research study, which included wind-resource assessments, discussions of regulatory issues, noise-level tabulations, and projected economic viability of various hardware options.  Special care went into this engineering report, because of its potential to serve as a “template” for other coastal communities in Massachusetts.   Various factors were given a ‘sensitivity’ analysis.  This revealed which factors, if not predicted accurately, would have a crucial impact on the entire project.

By the year 2000, newspaper reports had appeared, including in the Boston Globe.  The Light department also notified townspeople of a townwide public meeting scheduled for June 16 2000.   Members of the Light Board, experts from Mass. Municipal Wholesale Electric Company (MMWEC), from the RERL at UMass, alongside the Town Manager the town historian and citizen advocate Malcolm Brown made the presentation.  Questions from the public were fielded by this same panel of town representatives. The meeting’s response was on the whole strongly positive.   One citizen objecting strongly, however.  In summary, it was announced that the light department would go ahead and put out a Request for Proposals.  The preferred site was to be some 75 yards from the site of the smaller windmill running next to the High School in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

By January of 2001 the RFP was sent out to 12 turbine manufacturers.  By March of 2001 several bids had arrived. One windturbine manufacturer from Denmark and another from Germany had meantime sent representatives to Windmill Point for site visits.

In April of 2001 the bid of Vestas, a Danish company, was accepted. They had bid their model with rotor-diameter of 47 meters, and a hub-height of 50 meters, rated power of 660 KW. Their turnkey bid price was $698,699, net of their standard set of supplemental spare parts.  Life expectancy of the moving parts in this machine was 20 years.  Hull later learned that more than 1,100 of this same model of Vestas turbine were sold in the USA during calendar year, 2001.  This was a big increase from their 4 units sold — their total delivered to the USA in calendar 1997.

Contract negotiations went on for several months.  It became clear that here too Hull was doing pioneering work. As in the state-sponsored engineering study, Hull’s case was being looked at as a “first” in the Commonwealth, and even on the entire East Coast.  So our contract should be a transportable template for other similar projects still in the planning stages, or at still earlier stages of advancement.  A number of issues needed to be resolved, such as the schedule of advance payments, warranty and maintenance agreement language, the level of ongoing commitment we could expect from Vestas.

Commissioning date was December 27, 2001.  In its first year, the total generated energy — all delivered to the municipally owned grid, — was 1,597,367 KWh’s.  The Light Department’s sales of this energy (in addition to ‘zeroing out’ the town’s street lighting bill) was in excess of $150,000, net of the incentive payments for “renewable energy certificates”.  Public support was high, and a survey by the light department returned 95% favorable reactions, the commonest question being “why not more ?”

By 2003 planning was underway for “Hull Wind 2″ (citizen advocate Brown had been elected to a 3-year term on the Light Board).  By 2005 this same wind advocate had been re-elected to that Board of Commissioners.  As he said ” my platform had just one plank — more windpower in Hull”.  By now he had been elected Vice Chairman of the Board, although he had only been a town resident for 7 years as of 2003.  

By May of 2006, Hull Wind 2 was commissioned.  (a Vestas V80, rated at 1.8 Megawatts).  In its first year it produced 4,088,000 KWh’s, and townsfolk showed considerable pride in the results.  Six state and national awards had meantime accumulated.   One commissioner joked “we have run out of wall-space on our Light Plant’s walls.   So if we’re to hang up all of our plaques — we may need to move some over to Town Hall”.  Over 12% of the town’s entire consumption of electric energy was by now being supplied by this pair of turbines.

Were there economic benefits to the town and its electric ratepayers ?  Yes there were, and some of these benefits are all but guaranteed to continue at least until middle of 2016.   The press-release from Harvard University was clearly pleased about their signing up for a 10-year purchasing of all of the Green Tags created by Hull Wind 2 at our landfill.  Harvard’s bid had won out in a lively bidding process (one of our Hullwind people, Malcolm Brown was there at the Light Board, as these bids were processed).     To be sure, the Harvard press release slightly  overstated Hull’s likely production, since they went with an estimate produced by our attorney, rather than assume this new machine would come in slightly lower on the production charts than Hull Wind 1 .

 

It is in fact this latter figure, based on a CF of approximately 24%, which our Hullwind logging work shows.   In any case, the results have been economically rewarding to Hull.    So over and beyond the civic pride brought by this pair of machines, and beyond the additional pride from putting so much emission-free electricity back onto our grid, this machine has produced on average 3.5 thousand MWh’s of energy on an annual basis over its first eight years of this 10 year contract period.    On average it has been harvesting this Harvard incentive-money at a rate of a little better than $30 per MWh.  This harvest alone brings into the Town some $100 thousand a year, which promises a total of $1 million over the 10 year contract period ending mid-2016.   Naturally, the underlying energy is there for the Light Dept to bill its ratepayers for,  in the old familiar way.   At present rates, this brings in an additional $1 or more.   In fact a minor controversy erupted over which part of the town’s financial obligations ought to be offset by this inflow of money.   Please see the story on our homepage about the $600,000 dispute over “rent” for the landfill location.   It strikes us as a story with some comical features, despite the fact that Climate Change is anything but comical.   It’s even too sad to be tragical in the standard meaning of this.  (see the Don Bowen piece about “explaining to our grandchildren” below, which is somber).

A residential-scale windmill was installed by the Light Department at the Weir River Estuary’s nature center, to further publicise Hull’s commitment to green energy.   A book was web-published in 2006 by Aly Clinton, “Our Neighbor Millie”.   She is proud of Hull Wind 2, which she nicknamed “Millie”.  It stands some 400 yards from the home that 8-year old Aly shares with her parents and her younger brother Charlie.   Charlie helped with the illustrations.  She and Charlie held a book-signing and lecture at Hingham Public Library, where the two received awards  — and revenue from book sales.    Part of this revenue stream has been directed by the co-authors to the non-profit Weir River Watershed Association.

By early 2007, planning had begun to install a set of 4 turbines offshore, total rated power to be roughly 15 Megawatts — projected to give the town enough production to meet its entire need for electrical energy.  A vigorous debate over how to finance this is still ongoing.   Meantime, in the ten individual election campaigns of Commissioners (each year two terms expire), not a single campaign had omitted the windpower issue.  And all 10 campaigns had included ads coming out in favor of more and more various windmills for the town.   A sour note was struck in May of 2012 when one candidate for a Light Board allowed the newspaper to print his exaggerated statement that our larger machine is very often “down”.  He appeared to be unaware of the regular reporting at the website http://www.hullwind.org.    Other Board members and the management team, however, are better informed.

By mid-2012 we have seen commissioned in Eastern Massachusetts the following commercial-scale wind-turbines:

2 – 1.5 MW machines at Princeton Mass., its Muni Light Dept’s project on Wachusett Mountain

1 – 1.2 MW machine (GE) at the landfill in Ipswich, installed by Ipswich Muni Light owned by town (and Muni Light Dept and School Board)

1 –   2 MW machine added (Hyundai) near landfill in Ipswich

2 – 0.66  MW (Vestas brand, manufactured in India) machines adjacent to the MWRA digester tanks on Deer Island

1 –  1.65 MW (Vestas)  at Technology Park, Falmouth, privately owned and operated by NotusCleanEnergy

1 – 1.65 MW machine at Town of Falmouth Wastewater Treatment plant, Falmouth [controversy followed, excessive noise ?]

1 –    1.5 MW at Charlestown Navy Yard, owned and operated by Mass. Water Resources Administration (MWRA)

3 –    2 MW machines in Kingston, at the privately owned gravel pit owned by Mary O’Donnell

1 –   2 MW (Hyundai) near Landfill in Kingston, Mass., under contract with developer for output power and energy

1 –   1.5 MW machine in Scituate, owned and operated privately (Solaya),  lease agreement with Town of Scituate

2 –   2 MW machines in Fairhaven, owned and operated privately (Solaya), lease agreement with Town of Fairhaven

2 –   100 KW Windturbines installed at the school in Mattoon, Illinois

Three proactive efforts are underway in Salem, Rockport, Hingham and Marshfield, to our knowledge here at Hullwind.   Others are in early planning stages in Duxbury and across the state.   This list will be periodically updated as events unfold.

Meantime, in the Western part of the Commonwealth, a large project (Berkshire Wind Coop) was installed in and near Town of Hancock.   Part of its ownership is Town of Hull.   This goes via our Hull Muni Light Department, which is a member of the energy consortium within MMWEC, which planned and installed the project.  The owning coop was formed by a dozen or so MMWEC members, including Town of Hull.     This project consists of a 15 MW set of turbines, high up in the Berkshires.    It has 10 machines of 1.5 MW each, all manufactured by GE.    We received here at HullWind the following cheerful report from this MMWEC project:    during the entire month of April 2012, this 15 MW project wind project scored a Capacity Factor of 44 % !   [Commonly such projects in the northeast work hard to maintain a CF level above 27%].   Thus this set of 15 turbines produced and sold over 4,500 MWh just that month.    Their long-term CF substantially is now projected to be in excess of 27 %.    This naturally reflects a proportionate credit on our local MMWEC member, Town of Hull.   Bravo MMWEC , re-Bravo Hull !

If we were to hazard a guess about the after-maintenance market value of the commodities produced (h.e. energy and capacity), we could reasonably put this net value at 450 thousand dollars, or a net of roughly 15 thousand dollars a day.  (A few assumptions are built in here, naturally, about ‘bonus revenue’ and the market for energy and capacity, and a few other assumptions must be woven in about maintenance costs — but it’s hard for us to imagine a net revenue of less than $10 thousand per day for the Coop or Consortium of which Hull is a dues-paying member.)   Month of March ?   We don’t have data there, but it’s not likely to’ve been less windy in March than in April 2012.

This new version of our ‘History’ page has been getting fewer updates than we had hoped.    Now, however, and with our new user-friendly “WordPress.com” hosting, this is likely to show some improvement.      And we are anticipating that the second half of year 2012 may have some quite special news.    A public radio station in Hull’s vicinity has shown interest in telling our Massachusetts story.    No, this is not the hydropowered NPR station, WJFF-FM in Jeffersonville.      Stay tuned.    We may well be able to include a relay of their investigative report.    There are now signs that this broadcast has been delayed substantially.   Conceivably the delay is due to some political sensitivity surrounding the subject of “Green Energy” — especially during this fall’s 2012 presidential campaigns.

In presidential debate #1, for example [on Oct 2, 2012] the candidate with direct Massachusetts connections launched an aggressive attack on his opponent, alleging that “campaign contributions” had improperly caused the incumbent to provide an oversupply of Federal Government support for Green Energy.    [Several Hullwind supporters wondered aloud why that same debate had overlooked the well-documented Bloomberg Energy News analysis, revealing that public subsidies to fossil fuel interests dramatically overtop those to green energy, — by more than a 12:1 ratio.      In any case, Hull’s two large-scale turbines moved ahead under the Republican regimes of G.W. Bush in Washington and M. Romney in Massachusetts.     Some further information on the larger world and its embrace of sustainable energy practices is found here at hullwind.com, its “Wizards Corner” page.    Commenters on this topic seem glad to embrace our attitudes toward making our energy supply dramatically cleaner and more sustainable.

A librarian at the Rose Hill campus of Fordham University recently volunteered an approving comment on Hull’s windpower initiatives:   “that’s great”.   She was standing right there in the Reference section of the Walsh Library adjacent to Fordham Plaza.   It was 7 Feb 2013 when she made this remark.  Her new book, due out in the coming weeks, is to be reviewed on the “Catskill Review of Books” program aired over Jeffersonville’s hydropowered radio station, WJFF.     Its title:   One Day in December: Celia Sanchez and the Cuban Revolution [Monthly Review Press, 2013].   Author:   Nancy Stout.

 

update from 17 April 2014:  With some new interest developing in the central parts of Sullivan County New York (boosted by the people at WesEngineering in Madison Wisconsin), this website is likely to have more to add to its “history”.    In principle, the additions can be cheerful and optimistic ones.    Please consider the message implicit within this following exhortation, written by Don Bowen of Meridian Associates in 2013.  Don has personally made major contributions to wind development in eastern Massachusetts and to other renewable energy projects across his Commonwealth.   And he has often expressed his approval of Hull’s pioneering work with windpower:

Copyright © 2006, Hull Wind. All Rights Reserved.

Don Bowen's answer to his grandchildren (2014)

Don Bowen’s answer to his grandchildren (2014)

 

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