The Island’s largest wind turbine to date went up this past week at Morning Glory Farm in Edgartown. The 50-kilowatt wind turbine sits atop a 120-foot galvanized steel tower.
The project began as an idea three years ago, and on Thursday it took a single day to bring the huge pieces together and assemble it. The turbine now appears high above the landscape to drivers headed out of Edgartown on the Edgartown-West Tisbury Road.
The delicate work of Richard Bleakney of Osterville, operating an 80-ton Baxter crane, brought the pieces together with some pushing and pulling by a small crew to make it right.
And while it was not deliberately timed that way, the turbine went up at the same time that the farm was preparing for a formal dedication and opening of a new retail store on Meshacket Road.
On Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Clara Athearn, age four, representing the newest generation of Athearns, cut a chain of daisies strung across the front door and stoop of the new farm stand. Jim Athearn, 62, said he was just pleased it all came together so nicely. “It is heartwarming,” he told a gathering of over 30 customers and assembled group of employees.
“This building and our farm is . . . the result of over 30 years of contributions from our entire Martha’s Vineyard community who have bought our products, worked in our fields and markets, repaired our machines, lent us money, promoted and wrote about our farm, and done the thousands of supportive actions that have made Morning Glory Farm what it is today.”
He estimated that over 100 people were involved in the four-and-a-half-month farm stand project.
Not far away, Gary Harcourt, manager of Great Rock Windpower of Oak Bluffs, wearing a hard hat, was halfway up the tower working on electrical connections.
After the ceremony, Mr. Harcourt joined Mr. Athearn at the foot of the tower. The two stood together beneath the tall white blades above. They had talked for nearly three years about this, but it was another matter to stand beneath the tower, finally in place.
Mr. Athearn said the idea began when Kate Warner, former director of the Vineyard Energy Project, moderated a meeting of local farmers on the possibilities of harvesting energy. He was asked to bring his electric bills for the meeting. Later he met Mr. Harcourt and began to talk about building a wind turbine on the farm. Then in 2008 Mr. Athearn attended a USDA workshop on grant writing, and talk became possibility.
Mr. Athearn and Mr. Harcourt eventually selected a $350,000 wind turbine, capable of producing enough electricity in a year to power 10 average homes. The turbine is manufactured by Endurance Wind Power, based in Surrey, British Columbia.
Meanwhile Mr. Athearn discovered there were grants available to help pay for the project. He received an initial $50,000 from the USDA and is eligible to receive an additional $100,000 based on the success of his first year of electricity production.
Harvesting the wind seemed like a natural for a man who comes from generations of farming the land.
The tower stands on a 17.5-acre wood lot, near the farm’s curing leaf compost pile. The footings for the tower are set in 60 yards of concrete and four tons of steel rebar.
Mr. Harcourt said this is the tenth windmill his firm has helped assemble and install. A full-time cabinetmaker, Mr. Harcourt said he and his partners stand to make very little money from the venture. But, “It is the right thing to do,” he said.
On Thursday morning, the first 40-foot section went onto the concrete footings. By lunchtime, another 80-foot section was added.
By 5:30 p.m., the crane was lifting the 10,000-pound Endurance Wind Power nacelle wind turbine with three 30-foot fiberglass wind blades. In nearly calm air, a team of hard-hatted workers held lines as the nacelle was raised. This is when Mr. Bleakney’s delicate touch at the controls of the crane came into play. High aloft, Mr. Harcourt and his partner Larry Schubert fastened the final connections with nuts and bolts.
In ideal conditions, the wind turbine will spin 40 revolutions in a minute. Mr. Harcourt said truck-sized brakes inside the nacelle can keep the blades from rotating during adverse weather conditions. The turbine will not operate in winds above 55 miles per hour, and is designed to withstand a 130 mile-per-hour hurricane. The generator, and electronics to power and monitor wind conditions, are also inside.
On Saturday morning, with at least the construction part of the job done, Mr. Schubert said: “It feels really good to be able to put up a machine that everyone likes to talk about.”
The wind turbine is not be fully operational yet; there remains an array of technical work to do, and Mr. Harcourt said it may take several weeks for NSTAR to okay all the connections.
Meanwhile, he and his company are already working on a second, similar turbine to be located at the National Cemetery in Bourne. Installation could take place in August.