IGERT fellows, faculty and staff traveled to Maine in September to see firsthand some of the exciting wind projects underway in the state and to meet with experts on economic, environmental and policy issues related to wind energy. Our group was hosted by the Schoodic Education and Research Center Institute on beautiful Schoodic Point in Acadia Naitonal Park (http://www.sercinstitute.org).
On day one of the three-day educational tour, the IGERT team met with Wing Goodale and other staff at the Biodiversity Research Institute in Gorham (http://www.briloon.org). Goodale shared insights into Maine state government policies about wind power regulation. He also presented some of the group's research tracking coastal migratory birds with high-resolution photography, a project that has significant implications for understanding the ecological impacts of offshore wind development.
The next day, our team traveled by ferry to Vinalhaven, a town located in the Fox Islands 12 miles off the coast of Maine, and the site of one of the most progressive and controversial wind systems in the country. Since 2009, the community-owned Fox Islands Electric Cooperative has operated three 1.5 MW GE turbines on the island (http://www.foxislands.net). The turbines produce slightly more electricity annually than residents consume, reducing electric bills on the island, which previously relied on expensive and polluting diesel fuel to generate power. Though most residents support the wind project and appreciate the associated savings, a vocal minority has complained about noise from the turbines. The IGERT team toured the turbine site accompanied by Fox Islands Electric Cooperative General Manager Charles "Chip" Farrington, landowners Bill Alcorn and Del Webster, and Vinalhaven Energy Club member Karol Kusinski, who fielded questions about the history of the project, disputes with adjacent property owners, and their experience operating the turbines. GE-trained lineworker Joe Bickford gave IGERT fellows a peek inside the turbines, and answered technical questions about their operation.
On our final day in Maine, the IGERT team met with Bob Roy, director of ecological services at Boston-based First Wind (http://www.firstwind.com). Roy escorted our group on a tour of the company's Bull Hill project, where construction was nearing completion at the time of our visit. The 34 MW facility, located between Bangor and the Maine coastline, is comprised of 19 state-of-the-art Vestas turbines. Roy shared his expertise on minimizing bat and bird deaths associated with wind farms.
The trip was a significant bonding and learning opportunity for IGERT fellows, who swapped questions and knowledge about their respective fields during the long van rides.