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August 18, 2012

Wind turbines coming next month

Hold onto yer hats, mateys. Thar she blows — soon.

No, not a whale nor a hurricane — at least not that we know of.

But within the next two months, three mammoth wind turbines worth an estimated $23 million will wend their way through city streets in an unprecedented traffic fandango to take their place, historically and structurally, at Varian Semiconductors and Gloucester Engineering.

In the works for nine years, Varian’s twin turbines are expected to arrive by boat from Germany at Cruiseport the week of Sept. 17. After the moves through the streets, erection will begin about Oct. 1, said the company’s director of facilities, Rick Johnson, who has been the instigator behind the shift to wind power at Varian for almost a decade.

With a 100-meter (about 109 yards) tower and 100-meter rotors, the turbines will equal the largest of their kind on the East Coast — there is one as large in Fall River but Gloucester will have more megawatts — and be the second largest of their kind in the country.

The blowers will generate 9 million kilowatt hours of electricity, said Johnson, enough to take care of Varian, and leave 1 percent to be sold at discount to the electric grid.

At nearby Gloucester Engineering, the hills will be alive with its $8 million windmill. It will provide enough power to offset 90 percent to 100 percent of the city’s electric bills for municipal offices, schools, fire and police stations, etc.

Paying all the city’s bills with alternative power will be “a first in the nation,” said Mayor Carolyn Kirk.

“We’re all really excited about moving forward,” said Richard Kleiman, Gloucester Engineeri

ng’s wind power consultant. “The turbines are ordered, the building permits are pulled, the ships are coming from Spain to Boston, then by barge to Gloucester. We anticipate they’ll arrive in early October.”

Then there will ensue “a trucking effort,” as Kleiman said, with understatement.

Calling the project “novel,” Kleiman said fulfilling the municipal buildings’ power needs is remarkable as “a public-private renewable energy venture. I don’t know of any other of this scale.”

Correspondent Nancy Gaines is a veteran reporter and editor of national and Boston publications. She lives in Bay View.

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