Totally Turbinular

In the 1980s there was an expression – totally tubular – meaning really ‘awesome’ or cool.  I think its origins were from the west-coast (US) surfer culture.
Well, that expression (with some modification, of course) has another ‘coastal’ application today, based on a story in today’s Boston Sunday Globe.  In the story, about the historic city of Gloucester, Massachusetts, it says, “City expects 100 percent of power from wind”.  In other words, 100% turbine power.  Totally tubinular, dudes and dudettes!

OK, so it’s the wrong coast.  Gloucester is a long way from the beaches of California.  But this is still a pretty awesome project, whether you’re a dude, dudette, or neither of the above.

By mid December 2012, three turbines are to be operating at Blackburn Industrial Park.  Two companies, Varian Seminconductor Equipment Associates and Equity Industrial Partners are the main companies involved here.  At 492 feet from base to the top of the rotor, the first turbine, going up in the next few weeks, will be one of the largest in the northeastern US.

After this 2.5 MW turbine goes up, two additional 2 MW turbines will go up – and these will provide ALL of the power for Gloucester’s municipal electricity starting in December.  This is not a dream, nor a long term vision.  This is happening as you read this blog post.  What helped? Well about 30% of the US$8M project comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.  And what also helped was that the Mayor of Gloucester, Carloyn Kirk, appointed a Clean Energy Commission focused on the idea of renewable energy as a focus.  It doesn’t hurt that Gloucester is one of the windiest locations in the northeastern US.

What’s interesting about this project from a project management viewpoint?

Lots.

Let’s start with a charter – this project has some panache as a project which makes this community unique – a city fully-powered from wind.  Secondly the town did a good job identifying stakeholders and working with them up-front to get their buy-in, dealing with facts – not emotion – in describing what impacts the turbines would have.  This included conveying the fact that this was an optimal location to build the turbines (average wind speed is greater than 15 mph).

Here’s what’s also totally turbinular – on November 16th, residents can participate in a blade-signing event, where they can sign t heir names on one of the six blades (from the two turbines) that will be powering the city for the foreseeable future, and preventing about 6400 tons of carbon dioxide and other particulates from being released each year into their atmosphere when fossil fuels are used to produce electricity.  Below are a few images to help you get a scope of this totally turbinular project!