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August 20, 2008
3 Min Read
Jiminy Peak, a western Mass. mountain resort, marked the one year anniversary on August 15 of flipping the switch and connecting its 1.5 megawatt GE wind turbine to the grid. The turbine, nicknamed Zephyr, is now generating a full third of the ski resort's power. But getting there wasn't exactly a breeze.
Nestled in the Berkshires, Jiminy Peak claims to be the first privately held company in the nation to have installed a megawatt class turbine. Its Zephyr (named after the Greek god of wind) sits on a 253-ft. tower, with each of its three blades reaching approximately 123 feet into the air, making the wind turbine taller than the Statue of Liberty.
The turbine generates 4.6 million kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy or enough to light up the TVs, DVDs, microwaves and refrigerators in 613 homes for a year. Most of the power is generated in winter, when mountain winds peak, and demand at the resort is at its highest, due to the demands of snowmaking equipment.
Construction of the Zephyr presented a unique set of challenges. In the fall of 2006, a road was built on existing ski trails to allow equipment access to the site at an elevation of 2,000 feet. Then the foundation was poured.
The following spring, equipment and parts, some of them enormous, started arriving on site, and work on the western flank of the mountain began. One portion of the base weighed 64 tons and had to be dragged up the side of the mountain by four bulldozers.
Construction and installation were hampered by heavy rains, logistical challenges, and ironically, high winds. Just getting the three rotors from the Port of Albany 32 miles away "require[ed] a carefully choreographed effort between New York and Massachusetts power companies, safety officials, police departments and state troopers in two states, and the patience of motorists."
To generate electricity, the turbine requires a wind speed of at least 6 MPH. It can work in winds gusting up to 55 mph, but blade speed is controlled and never exceeds 22 RPM. How much power is generated is fundamentally determined not only by wind speed, but by the diameter of the rotors.
Inside the gearbox, the generator converts wind power to electricity, which then courses through cables to a transformer near the base of the tower. There the electricity is converted to 13,800 volts for distribution via 4,000 feet of conduit buried in the side of the mountain.
The economics go like this: A renewable energy grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for $582,000 helped offset the $3,900,000 installed cost of the turbine. During periods when the mountain doesn’t need the electricity, power is sold back to the power company. The Wall Street Journal explains:
Jiminy estimates it will earn an additional $161,000 annually from selling power in the spot market through National Grid PLC, a London-based utility with operations in the Northeast, and will receive $46,000 yearly production tax credits. In addition, the resort expects to write off the cost of the turbine... within five to six years.
The staff at Jiminy Peak has documented the delivery and installation of the Zephyr in photographs. Click to view an image gallery of the wind turbine installation.
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