Portsmouth Abbey & School is one of the larger customers of National Grid in this area and has been working diligently to combat our rising energy costs through the implementation of energy efficiency and convservation programs.
In addition to energy conservation measures, the Abbey had wished to promote renewable energy and had looked into a number of options, including Solar, Geo-Thermal 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 Abbey 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 this 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.
Over the last two decades, modern wind turbines generators have advanced in technology and 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 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 arived during the week of March 20 and was erected during the last in March 2006. Brother Joseph 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 10am that morning.
As of March 31, 2007, one year to the day after the wind turbine began to operate, it had generated nearly 1.3 million kWh of "clean" electricity and had supplied 39.35 percent of the School's electrical energy use. This successful trend has continued.
During its first year of operation, the highest documented wind gust was 67 mph. 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.
Total wind turbine revenues during its first year of operation were $222,710, including $64,661 in renewable energy credits, $28,496 in wholesale electricity sold back to the grid, and $129,553 in retail electricity displaced.
For its important contributions to conservation in Rhode Island, Portsmouth Abbey & 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.
Visit our Green Gallery to see photos of the turbine and our other environmental projects.