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University of Maine adviser: Small wind turbines not economically viable solution

Calculations by LaBrecque and his team of students found a typical $16,500 windmill only produces between 200 and 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year - not enough to keep a 100-watt light bulb running for a year. This amounts to a $30 to $80 cost savings per year - meaning the windmill, if saving $80 a year, would pay for itself only after 206 years.

A University of Maine capstone adviser and a group of mechanical engineering students have been going to great lengths to convince gubernatorial candidates of the perceived problems of small windmills as a power source in Maine.

Jim LaBrecque, owner of Flexware Control Technologies in Bangor, manufactures temperature control devices for residential and commercial environments.

More than 22 years ago, he worked to improve the refrigeration techniques used at Tranten's Market, a family-run grocery store with two locations in Franklin County, a move LaBrecque said saves them $3,000 a month in energy costs to this day, along with $30,000 in heating costs annually.

On Sept. 23, LaBrecque and seven of his students hosted Republican candidate Paul LePage in Kingfield to inform the candidate about their findings in energy research.

LaBrecque said his message is one intended to inform Maine's next governor of the state's energy future - a topic complicated by budget outlooks.

"When it comes to education, I am extremely nonpartisan," LaBrecque said. "We're out of frigging money."

According to Kingfield-based weekly newspaper The Original... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

A University of Maine capstone adviser and a group of mechanical engineering students have been going to great lengths to convince gubernatorial candidates of the perceived problems of small windmills as a power source in Maine.

Jim LaBrecque, owner of Flexware Control Technologies in Bangor, manufactures temperature control devices for residential and commercial environments.

More than 22 years ago, he worked to improve the refrigeration techniques used at Tranten's Market, a family-run grocery store with two locations in Franklin County, a move LaBrecque said saves them $3,000 a month in energy costs to this day, along with $30,000 in heating costs annually.

On Sept. 23, LaBrecque and seven of his students hosted Republican candidate Paul LePage in Kingfield to inform the candidate about their findings in energy research.

LaBrecque said his message is one intended to inform Maine's next governor of the state's energy future - a topic complicated by budget outlooks.

"When it comes to education, I am extremely nonpartisan," LaBrecque said. "We're out of frigging money."

According to Kingfield-based weekly newspaper The Original Irregular, calculations by LaBrecque and his team of students found a typical $16,500 windmill only produces between 200 and 500 kilowatt hours of electricity per year - not enough to keep a 100-watt light bulb running for a year.

This amounts to a $30 to $80 cost savings per year - meaning the windmill, if saving $80 a year, would pay for itself only after 206 years.

LaBrecque said Maine should be embracing engineering efficiencies and opportunities, not newer methods of power that are expensive to set up. Engineers, he said, are not used enough at the state level to address energy concerns.

"We don't need to have all sorts of future thoughts about solar and wind. You've got more energy blowing out of buildings than what these windmills could ever produce," he said, referencing what he sees as gross heating inefficiencies in building vents at UMaine.

Reuse of wasted heat, he said, would be just the beginning to fixing energy issues in Maine. The response, he said, has been positive.

"I talked with Paul and he just puts me through the tough questions - ‘When is this stuff going to be ready? How much is it going to cost? When is the payback going to be?' - and on and on and on," LaBrecque said. "We need somebody to wake the state up and get rid of this waste and start getting our budget in order."

On Wednesday, LePage campaign manager John Morris referred The Maine Campus to the candidate's campaign website for his policy on energy, which states, "Biomass, wind, co-generation, nuclear, solar, tidal and hydro all offer tremendous potential for lower costs as well as a more diverse, local energy source. In short, Paul's administration will welcome any energy that can compete on price."

LaBrecque hosted Democratic candidate Libby Mitchell in Kingfield and Farmington earlier this summer to discuss the same issues as he did with LePage. Mitchell, he said, is an old acquaintance he met through former U.S. Sen. George Mitchell, now the United States Special Envoy for Middle East Peace.

"She looked like she was totally intrigued. I know she was," LaBrecque said. "But then her position was to support windmills and all these green jobs and all that type of stuff."

Mitchell said Wednesday that she supports onshore and offshore wind power strongly, but did not remember the specific visit to Kingfield.

"I would not want to depend just on wind and I think that's one of many things in our portfolio. I also support tidal power," she said. "I would be open to geothermal as well as solar. I think all of those things should be part of our mix."

On Tuesday, independent candidate Eliot Cutler toured UMaine's Advanced Manufacturing Center after a forum at Wells Conference Center. LaBrecque said he could not make that event, but heard from colleagues that Cutler had a positive response to their research.

"Whether it's offshore wind or whether it's tidal electricity and advanced biomass generation, these are areas of endeavor where engineering is going to play a very important role," Cutler said Wednesday. "And that's good for us, because that's a real strength of the university and it always has been."


Source: http://mainecampus.com/2010...

OCT 7 2010
http://www.windaction.org/posts/28331-university-of-maine-adviser-small-wind-turbines-not-economically-viable-solution
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