, Newburyport, MA

Local News

September 3, 2008

A negative spin

NEWBURY — Janet Fraser had high hopes for substantial savings on her electricity bill when her wind turbine started operating in January.

The 10-kilowatt turbine, built and installed with the help of a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, was estimated to produce 11,000 kilowatt hours of power annually.

After operating for eight months on her Newburyport Turnpike property, the turbine has produced only 2,149 kilowatt hours, Fraser said.

"I'm getting only a third of what I expected," she said.

Actually, it's less than that, according to a report prepared by the Technology Collaborative. Based on readings taken during the first six months of the year, the collaborative is projecting Fraser's output at 2,709 kilowatt hours for all of 2008. That's only about 25 percent of the original projection.

The disappointing performance of small wind turbines has caught the attention of Technology Collaborative, which has halted a grant program that many people had used to help buy them.

Indeed the report on a sample of 19 small turbines installed around the state using Technology Collaborative grants, shows that the highest power output is 59 percent, from a 10-kilowatt turbine in the Martha's Vineyard town of Oak Bluffs.

A tower in Scituate is producing only 2 percent of its projected output, and the statewide average is only 27 percent.

Amesbury's Cider Hill Farm installed two wind turbines last year using Technology Collaborative grants: One is producing at 29 percent of expected power, the other at 22 percent, according to the collaborative's report. Cider Hill added a third turbine more recently.

Cider Hill Farm owner Glen Cook said he believed that the formula used to calculate the output of the turbines overstates the average wind speeds at any location.

He said the formula projected each turbine would produce 11,500 kilowatt hours per year, but he was expecting closer to 9,000. Instead, he is finding each turbine is generating 3,000 to 4,000 hours annually.

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