Wind turbine is alternative energy source in Medford

By Martin Finucane
Globe Staff / January 31, 2009
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Anyone who commutes to Boston from the north on Interstate 93 knows that there are a few days every year when winds roar across the road and cause you to grip your steering wheel a bit tighter.

Medford officials are hoping for a lot of those days in the future. That's because the city is in the process of commissioning a wind turbine at the John J. McGlynn Sr. Elementary and Middle School.

The site is just along the highway and the Mystic River near the Route 16 exit and visible to thousands of people using the road.

The turbine's hub is 131 feet high and its three blades are 34 feet long. It was made by Northern Power of Barre, Vt., and is expected to generate 170,000 kilowatt hours, or about $25,000 worth of electricity per year. That's about 10 percent of the school's electricity bill, said Patty Barry, director of the city's energy and environment office.

Barry and Mayor Michael J. McGlynn showed the turbine to a reporter yesterday, a day after the official ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Barry said the project was just one of a number of environmental initiatives the city has undertaken during the mayor's tenure, including the installation of a solar power system on City Hall, solar lighting at Hormel Stadium, and the use of town vehicles powered by alternative fuels.

One project led to the next, McGlynn said. "The one thing about the environment, it's addictive . . . because the more you do the more you want to do," he said.

One of the key reasons for installing the turbine was to create awareness of alternative energy among the children at the schools, he said.

Another benefit of the project, McGlynn said, will be to get more name recognition for the city.

"Part of the thought process was that we wanted to build a landmark here in the city. So pretty soon, you'll be hearing on the radio that 'Traffic is backed up to the turbine in Medford,' " he said.

Maureen McCracken, director of marketing at Northern Power, said the company's turbines can spin and make electricity in winds as slow as 6 mph and as fast as 56 miles per hour.

The Medford turbine has already put some power onto the grid, though it hasn't been cleared for unattended operation. It's expected to be fully operational at the end of next week.

The Globe reported Thursday that Governor Deval Patrick's lofty goals of making the state a leader in energy and environmental policy may be endangered by the stumbling economy, which has produced massive budget deficits.

To reach the state's goal of 2,000 megawatts produced by wind power by 2020, the state would have to increase generating capacity more than 300 times.

But the $644,000 Medford project, which benefited from a number of major grants, has made it under the wire.

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