Restaurant to install waterfront wind turbine as Portland readies rules

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PORTLAND — It’s shaping up to be a summer of wind in Portland.

The waterfront will soon get its first wind turbine as the city draws closer to rolling out proposed regulations for the electricity generating machines.

Peaks Island, meanwhile, is a little over half way through a wind study on the feasibility of installing a wind turbine.

According to planning documents, a 35-foot tall wind spire is proposed for DiMillo’s Floating Restaurant & Marina at 25 Long Wharf.

City Planner Jean Fraser said the proposal was submitted before the city began exploring an ordinance regulating wind turbines, so the plan only needed a staff review and technical permits.

A wind spire operates on a vertical axis to generate electricity. Instead of having fan-like blades rotating on a horizontal axis, a wind spire’s blades are on a cylindrical frame that rotates around its support pole.

Fraser said the city asked Nelson & Small, the company spearheading the project, to add 5 feet to the project, so the moving parts would be 14 feet off the pier, instead of 9 feet.

The structure will be well below the 45-foot height limit allowed in the zone.

Mark Hellen, of Nelson & Small, said the company has renewed its permits with the city and is working out the details for installation. The project has been delayed by the city’s administrative review and the availability of parts, he said.

“Before summer is when we’d like to get it up,” said Hellen, who noted he understands the city’s caution with the project.

Planning documents indicate the turbine will be anchored just north of the restaurant entrance and will have a fence around the base. It will be tied directly into the business’ circuit breaker and power the marina office.

Hellen said the spire is being installed at no cost to DiMillo’s as a way to market the device.

On Peaks Island, anemometers placed along a 100-foot pole have been collecting wind data at Trott-Littlejohn Park since last August.

Two quarterly reports have been issued for the study that will continue at least until August.

The study, conducted by the University of Maine and Efficency Maine, has already raised questions about whether wind speeds would be sufficient to support a turbine.

Preliminary data collected from last August through February indicate speeds are falling just short of the threshold needed for a commercial turbine.

Sam Saltonstall, the island resident leading the effort, said the 60- to 70-foot trees in the area may be a factor. He said the island transfer station may be a better location for the test.

But Saltonstall said the wind study is only the first step in a long journey for a potential wind turbine that would not only reduce islanders’ electrical costs, but may also generate revenue for the city.

If adequate wind speeds exist, there would extensive public outreach to see if there is public support for the project, he said. Financing would be an issue, too.

“I’m very optimistic about the prospects for wind in Maine,” he said. “But it’s hard to say yet whether there’s a prospect on Peaks Island.”

Fraser, meanwhile, said the city’s efforts to craft a wind ordinance are nearly complete.

The Planning Board held its third and probably last workshop on the rules in late March.

Fraser expects the board to hold a public hearing in late May or early June. The hearing is likely to include renderings of how some turbines may look in certain parts of the city, she said.

If the board approves the proposed rules, the ordinance will be sent to the City Council.

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings