FAIRFIELD — Dana Doran’s children will be pleased the black and yellow “helicopter” has taken flight at Kennebec Valley Community College.
At Wednesday’s commissioning of the 80-foot, 5-kilowatt wind turbine, the college’s director of energy programs said his children have been asking when the helicopter blades would turn and it would fly.
The three turbine blades began to turn Wednesday afternoon about 15 seconds after college President Barbara Woodlee flipped the brake switch near the base of the tower.
The turbine is expected to provide electrical power to the Muriel P. Frye building and be a teaching tool for students in the college’s electrical technology program who study small wind power systems design and installation.
Doran said that two years ago Efficiency Maine provided funding for the project.
Dana Fischer, Efficiency Maine’s residential program specialist, said the turbine is a fantastic demonstration of the feasibility of wind power technology and provides an opportunity for people to learn a new trade.
Fisher said Kennebec Valley Community College is providing excellent technical education, innovation and leadership in the state.
“In Maine, we need to learn to utilize our resources wisely. We cannot afford to do otherwise,” he said, adding the college is developing a workforce that can continue to drive the economy.
When others are debating the role and viability of wind power, Fisher said the college is doing real work utilizing natural resources and moving toward energy independence.
Greg Fletcher, chairman of the college’s trade and technical occupations department, thanked Woodlee for giving the go-ahead to erect the tower outside of her then-office space.
Fletcher said he told Woodlee that she wouldn’t hear the turbine, that it wouldn’t fall on the roof, that birds would not fly into it and that with normal wind speed it would provide enough power for an average home, or about 800 kilowatt hours per month.
Fletcher said the blades will start to turn with the wind blowing 6 mph and that the blades are designed to withstand wind speeds of 130 mph.
Woodlee said she is delighted students at the college will have such a wonderful learning and teaching tool.
Doran said the turbine should not be alternative, but part of the culture and part of the energy portfolio.
The turbine was built with support from the Maine Public Utilities Commission’s Community Development Projects Fund as a demonstration project, according to information provided by the college.
Partners in the Kennebec Valley Community College Wind Turbine Demonstration Project are Green Earth Energy, Sustain Mid-Maine, Skowhegan Career & Technical Education Center, Mid-Maine Technical Education Center, and Unity College.
The wind turbine will eventually be joined at the Frye building by a rooftop photovoltaic array to generate electric power from sunlight, according to Jonathan Humphrey, the college’s marketing specialist.
“This is a beacon of hope for the community at large,” Doran said.
Beth Staples — 861-9252