guest column

Camden Hills Regional High School Windplanners celebrate 10 years of energy production with wind turbine

Ten years of the turbine in our backyard has shown we can coexist with wind energy
Thu, 03/31/2022 - 12:45pm

    Ten years ago this month Camden Hills Regional High School commissioned the wind turbine on campus and power production began. Since then, the turbine has stood  over the school as a monument and is a recognizable landmark from vantage points around the county. It is the background of many of the memories current and past students have made during their time in high school.

    This anniversary provides a great opportunity to look back on how the turbine came to be on our campus, how it has performed over the past 10 years, and why it is still important to our school and our move towards sustainable energy.

    Twenty-two years ago, the high school on Route 90 in Rockport opened its doors. The high energy use of the new high school led science teacher Rob Lovell and the first group of Windplanners, CHRHS’s student sustainability team, to explore ways to reduce the impact of that big energy footprint.

    In the early 2000s, wind energy was the most affordable renewable energy source, far more cost effective per kWh than solar.

    After collecting and analyzing data over the course of a year, the journey began to raise the funds to put a wind turbine on campus. Even though wind was the cheaper option, it took nine years to raise the close to $500,000 necessary to build the wind turbine. That's right, NINE years!

    Several generations of high schoolers and teachers, with the help of many community members, were able to chip away at the fund to make that dream a reality. This persistence early on showed that the Camden Hills community was committed to and willing to lead the transition to renewable energy.

    Beyond the type of power chosen, and the lofty cost, many people questioned where we chose to put the turbine.

    The choice was less straightforward. It was a process that involved scouting many different locations on campus for the greatest energy production. We worked with the University of Massachusetts Wind Energy Lab to identify the best location on campus. We knew there were windier places in the community, and many argued that we should locate in one of those places, but we felt it was important to put the turbine in “our backyard”. On campus, it would help educate the students and community that people can coexist with this type of energy.

    It took many discussions and meetings with the community, school board and town officials to support the project. To date, we have had no known complaints of noise, flicker or other concerns that had to be addressed prior to full school board and town approval. Additionally, this project would not have ever happened if we didn’t have the support of the Friends of the CSD, lots of donors and a close advisor and supporter to us, Bill Hopwood.

    The turbine has become a source of school pride, and, more importantly, a source of zero carbon energy, and because this project was paid for upon commissioning we receive free energy valued at around $11,000 a year.

    In the past ten years the wind turbine has operated, it has generated roughly 620,000 kWh of energy.

    In 2021 alone, it produced 63,756 kWh.

    This has reduced the high schools carbon dioxide contribution by about 500,000 pounds. This is equivalent to taking 55 cars off the road last year.

    As many Mainers know, the cost of electricity has been rising dramatically and will likely continue over time, so the value of the power produced will only increase making the value of the energy produced from the turbine greater.

    Windplanners past and present feel that wind energy has to be considered as part of the solution to decreasing carbon emissions. Both onshore and offshore wind in Maine is a tremendous, untapped resource and we believe that it, too, can be developed in a way where fishing, recreation, and energy production can coexist to create a stable, sustainable future for Mainers.

    A future where climate change won’t destroy the productivity of the oceans, and burden future generations with the threat of climate change, but rather create good jobs and reinvigorate Maine’s economy. Ten years of the turbine in our backyard has shown us that we can coexist with wind energy as we have learned we have more to gain than to fear from wind energy.

    Sadie Woodruff is a senior at Camden Hills Regional High School and the Windplanners