By Richard Gaines
---- — Do not be confused.
While they are not running constantly, Gloucester’s trio of tickets to the clean energy era — the gigantic tri-blade wind turbines at Blackburn Industrial Park — are now on line.
And as the wind spins them, they are generating electricity, while also saving money for their owners and the city of Gloucester.
The largest of the three, its blades’ apex a full 479 feet above the ground, was put on line Dec. 6 by Varian Semiconductor/Applied Materials, while the smaller twin turbines — a mere 255 feet at the top of the blades’ arc, and owned by Equity Industrial Turbines, a subsidiary of Equity Industrial Partners, the landlord of Gloucester Engineering — went on line Dec. 31.
Rick Johnson, director of facilities for Varian, a bureau unit of Applied Materials Silicons Systems Group, said the turbine was projected to produce 8.5 million kilowatt hours for the maker of capital equipment used in the manufacturing of chips, and translates into $1 million in annual net savings. Varian uses enormous amounts of power in its manufacturing process.
The city’s partnership with Gloucester Engineering, meanwhile, is projected to save the city $450,000 a year and also provide “a substantial savings” in net electricity charges to Gloucester Engineering, which makes equipment that is used to extrude plastics to make bags and films. Rich Kleiman, Gloucester Engineering’s wind power consultant, said the precise information on the projected benefits to the company was private.
While all of the turbines are up and running, they do not operate in very low or high winds.
Johnson said when winds were at 7 miles per hour or less, the Varian turbine will not operate for economic reasons; when the wind speed is 56 miles an hour or greater, the turbine will shutdown for safety reasons.
Kleiman said the Gloucester Engineering turbines’ cut-out speeds at the low and high ends were about the same.
In addition, he said there is also a condition that will automatically shutdown one of the twin turbines on his company’s site.
At times when the wind is oriented precisely along the axis of the two turbines in either direction, the rear turbine goes off line and shuts down to avoid a condition in which the wind is spun as it turns the blades — a situation that would put unequal pressures on the blades of the second turbine in what Kleiman described as an “I formation.”
“They are programmed to protect the trailing one from turbulence,” he said.
In the meantime, the agreement with Equity Industrial Turbines means the city’s buildings will be virtually entirely powered by clean energy, Mayor Carolyn Kirk said.
The turbines were being built as part of a 25-year agreement with Equity Industrial Turbines, which is expected to save the city of Gloucester a minimum of $11 million over the life of the contract, Kirk has said.
”The electricity goes to the grid, and all the net metering credits go to the city,” said Kleiman.
He said the turbines also provide redundancy in the event of a blackout, an interruption of the delivery system from the grid, or a brownout due to high local usage.
The installment of the turbines last fall drew intense interest from residents, many of whom watched the blades and other parts being transported from Cruiseport Gloucester — where they arrived by boat — and then being installed at both Varian and Gloucester Engineering. Hundreds of residents and visitors alike also turned out for a ceremonial signing of a blade in November.
That blade — and those signatures, complete with a visible heart symbol drawn on by a local resident, Kirk said — is on the Gloucester Engineering turbine that sits closest to the Route 128 Extension.
Richard Gaines can be reached at 978-283-7000, or at email@example.com.