Free at last: High school students get final signoff to install 100-kW wind turbine

After eight years of research and fundraising, and one final 11th-hour delay caused by a dubious school board member, the “Windplanners,” a group of students at Camden Hills Regional High School in Rockport, Me., received the final go-ahead Dec. 6 from the board to install a 100-kW Northern Power Systems wind turbine on school property.

The Windplanners' odyssey began in 2004. After an effort to institute energy efficiency measures at the newly built high school, students decided to work on adding renewable energy to the school's energy supply.  They worked with Rockport to change ordinances, testified before the Maine Public Utilities Commission, collaborated with the Energy Research Center at the University of Massachusetts to collect and analyze wind speed data at the site, and raised $510,000 to pay for the turbine and its installation.

The Camden Hills turbine will be the largest installed on a K-12 campus in the state of Maine, according to a description of the project posted on a funder's website, and is expected to reduce the school's electricity bills by $14,000 to $18,000 annually.  The description adds, “The wind turbine will be incorporated into school curriculum and serve as a demonstration site for the community as they explore wind energy in the community.” Local news accounts have quoted Margo Murphy, the science teacher who has served as an advisor to the students, the group will offer community tours of the turbine and monitor its energy consumption and generation.

The project seems remarkable in that it was started by students many of whom have since graduated from school, and passed along from class to class.  In a ceremony in May marking the presentation by Rockport of a building permit to the students, according to the Bangor Daily News, school principal Nick Ithomitis said of the students, “They wouldn’t let it go. They’re like a dog with a bone,” and as a result, “They learned a lot about themselves and what they are capable of.”

Our hearty congratulations to the Windplanners and Ms. Murphy, and more (wind) power to them in the New Year!

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