March 31, 2016: The Wind Turbine Turns 10!
- Portsmouth Abbey Monastery and School is one of the larger customers of National Grid in the Newport, RI, area and has worked diligently to combat rising energy costs through the implementation of energy efficiency and conservation programs.
- In addition to energy conservation measures, the Abbey wanted to promote renewable energy and had looked into a number of options, including solar, geothermal and wind power.
- As wind has been a resource on the site of the School since colonial times, it was determined that a wind turbine could possibly provide the Monastery and School with the best option for a renewable energy source and the greatest savings in energy costs.
- With the assistance of the R.I. Renewable Energy Fund and Roger Williams University, the School initiated a detailed study to quantify the local wind resource, including the installation of a special 50-meter (164-foot) tall meteorological monitoring pole.
- Additional analysis was made of the electrical usage patterns of the School, in order to select a wind turbine that would produce the needed energy using the winds available. The desire was to select a turbine that could meet the School's needs and yet be sensitive to the setting of the Abbey and the neighborhood. Studies found that a mid-sized wind turbine would suffice. In addition, the Abbey has enough space to place the turbine away from its boundaries. The turbine is approximately 750 feet from the nearest neighbor.
- A Vestas 660kW wind turbine generator was selected as the best choice for the project. The turbine has three, 77-foot carbon fiber blades atop a 164-foot tapered tubular steel tower. The rotor turns at a constant 28.5 revolutions per minute. The structure stands a proud 240 feet, from the ground to the tip of the highest blade. The turbine is secured by a concrete foundation that sits in a 30-foot hole, and its tower is firmly bolted to 80, one-inch diameter, 27-foot-long rods set firmly into the foundation.
- Modern wind turbines generators are proven, reliable sources of electricity that are pollution-free and safe for the community. This wind energy project is providing a unique benefit to local schools. Portsmouth Abbey continues to invite local student groups for a presentation and tour, and hopes, in the future, to make available data that can be used for any number of academic disciplines, including meteorology, environmental- or earth-science, physics, engineering, etc.
- Modern wind turbines have special design features that have significantly reduced operating noise. The Abbey wind turbine produces less than 45 dB (decibels) at the edge of Cory's Lane. This is comparable to the ambient sounds of the wind blowing through the trees. The wind turbine is not a hazard to wildlife.
- Power from the wind turbine at the School reduces the load on the local utility electrical distribution feeder. This provides higher voltage and improved power quality to the entire neighborhood during peak power use periods.
- In December of 2004, the Abbey applied to the State of Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund for their support of this wind power project. After careful evaluation of the proposed plan, the Fund Board generously made available their advisory resources as well as a grant for more than one-third of the estimated project costs.
- On March 18, 2005, the Abbey applied to the Town of Portsmouth for the special-use permit and variance needed to bring a wind turbine to fruition. With strong support from neighbors, the permit was unanimously granted.
- The foundation was completed at the beginning of January 2006. The State of Connecticut Police Department gave special permission for the lower part of the tower to travel through the state on a Friday, due to the truck's over-size load.
- The turbine arrived during the week of March 20 and was erected during the last in March 2006. Brother Joseph Byron watched the sun rise from the top of the turbine on March 31, 2006, the day the blades began to turn. The turbine began providing electricity for the grid at 10:00 a.m. that day.
- The wind turbine generates over 1 Million kWh of clean electric energy a year and supplies 40 percent of the School's and Monastery's overall electrical energy use.
- The turbine generates wind up to 55 mph, then pitches the blades to 90-degree angles and waits for the wind to subside to 45 mph before starting to turn again.
- The turbine has been through two minor hurricanes and numerous gales without incident. It has a life expectancy of at least 25 years.
- Over its first decade, the wind turbine has netted over $100,000 in revenues annually, from renewable energy credits and retail electricity displaced.
- For its important contributions to conservation in Rhode Island, Portsmouth Abbey Monastery and School received the 2007 Environmental Merit Award by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the 2007 Conservation Award by the Garden Club of America, and the 2006 Senator John H. Chafee Award for Outstanding Conservation Project.
- The wind energy project provides a unique benefit to local schools and the environmental community. Since 2006, thousands have toured the Portsmouth Abbey wind turbine.
- The wind turbine has been an unequivocal success.
Dom Joseph Byron, O.S.B., who spearheaded this eco-friendly initiative on behalf of the Monastery and School has conducted countless tours of the turbine and many interviews for the media in the interest of educating the public about the importance of stewardship, a hallmark of the Benedictine order. Below is an segment from the news show, "Inside Edition," where Brother Joseph guides a reporter to the top of the turbine.
The turbine is monitored weekly for its energy output and is posted below along with the total production to date. The graph below shows the comparative 52 weeks of electric production for the years since its inception on March 31, 2006. The beige chart shows a snapshot of where we are currently relative to the same week in each of the previous years. This data is also interesting in regard to annual weather patterns.