Wind Power

Peaks Island wind power:

Do we have a practical wind resource?

The PEAT wind group has recently received a University of Maine report on the 12-month wind-testing measurement effort we conducted at Trott-Littlejohn Park from August 23, 2010 until August 27, 2011. The report summarized the last quarter of data collected, and offered some insight into the local wind resource and its potential to generate electricity.

In short, the report concludes that Peaks Island does not have an economic wind resource (this is probably why we enjoy being here, as a fruitful wind site is typically not a pleasant place to live). A few points:

  • The results predict a 4.2 m/s (9.2 mph) annual average speed at a 40-meter (132 foot) height.
  • A typical community-scale wind energy site needs more than 5.5 m/s, and to have real impact would need more than 6.5 m/s.
  • It is important to know that wind power is a cubic function of wind speed, so a small difference in wind speed has a huge impact on energy output.
  • The island does have a good wind shear, meaning the higher the tower, the higher the wind speed (common sense), but we have aesthetic limits on how high we would want a tower, and the cost of a higher tower could be problematic.

The wind group has discussed the results with Dr. Mick Womersley of Unity College, who early on had been helpful to our effort, and with Peaks resident Lawrence Mott, who works in the wind industry and is very familiar with the kind of testing that was done here.

Our goal was to determine whether a community wind project on Peaks could be a viable undertaking. After a thorough data collection period of over 365 days and analysis of that data from three knowledgeable sources, it is clear that a wind project would be difficult if not impossible to finance, and that a better focus might be to work on the challenge of making our island homes and businesses tighter and more energy efficient.

There are many locations in Maine where the wind resource offers low cost and sustainable electric generation. Peaks does not appear to be one of them. Installing a wind turbine here would be expensive due to island logistics challenges, limited power transmission wires and limited land. Once complete the wind turbine would then be operating at low capacity due to lower wind speeds, and therefore a poor investment.

The wind group thanks the many islanders who supported the testing effort. If anyone is interested in looking over the University of Maine’s final report, it can be found here.

Sam Saltonstall For the PEAT Wind Group