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MWRA Turbine at Charlestown’s DeLauri Pump Station

Buy American Exemption of ARRA

by Virginia Irvine

Your Tax Dollars at Work – Made in China – Installed in Charlestown

A Chinese made 365-foot tall wind turbine was installed at the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) DeLauri Pump Station in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston in October, 2011. The turbine will provide electricity for the wastewater pumping station.

The $4.7 million project has been fully financed by the American Resource and Recovery Act (ARRA). One-half of the cost of the project is for purchasing the 1.5 megawatt turbine. The MWRA purchased the turbine from Sinovel, a Chinese state-owned wind turbine company. In order to purchase a foreign-made turbine, the MWRA had to obtain a US EPA Buy American exemption of Section 1605 of ARRA (1).

Installing a Chinese made turbine is disturbing for several reasons. First, building the wind turbine in China is not creating “jobs” here in the US, the primary purpose of ARRA. Secondly, the exemption allows the apparent circumvention of U.S. wind industry turbine setback guidelines and the Massachusetts 2009 model zoning ordinance/bylaws. The identified domestic manufacturer has adopted US wind industry setback distances associated with potential icing conditions on operating wind turbines. For safety in the event of icing, a setback distance of 1.5 times the hub height and rotor diameter has to be maintained. As the existing site did not allow for such a setback distance, the domestic manufacturer declined to make its product available for this project. The Chinese state-owned Sinovel currently does not use the same site consideration limitations applied by the domestic manufacturer.

Background

The DeLauri Pump Station is located on MWRA-owned land along the north bank of the Mystic River, just west of Alford Street (Route 99). The property area is comprised of 8.65 acres of land located in a strictly industrial area and does not have any immediate residential abutters. The wind turbine is near the southwest edge of the Pump Station property approximately 275 feet west of Route 99, a heavily traveled 4-lane undivided highway.

Look Out Below!!

The EPA placed low risks from ice damage or injury based on their available experience with other turbines, but noted that those experiences were largely anecdotal and had not been systematically assessed in situations where precautionary setback distances to heavily traveled public highways were not met. The EPA determined that alternative mitigation methods may be effective at limiting safety risks when setbacks were not met. The mitigation measures included monitoring the approach of weather conditions likely to lead to icing, shutting down the turbine in the event of icing and careful restart procedures.

Sinovel indicated that the turbine has vibration sensors to cause a shut down when ice build-up is detected. The installation contractor indicated that the control system can be programmed to allow for manual start. The MWRA will implement manual wind turbine operational control to allow an operator to visually inspect the turbine to confirm that there is no ice during periods of ice accretion. It may also post warning signs alerting personnel of the potential risk in the area. Access to the turbine area site will be restricted during icing conditions, if necessary. The MWRA did not say whether the manual operation will have to be done by an on-site operator or if motorists would be alerted to icing conditions.

(1) http://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2010/02/24/2010-3703/notice-of-a-regional-project-waiver-of-section-1605-buy-american-of-the-american-recovery-and#p-18

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chris Kapsambelis permalink
    February 27, 2012 8:32 pm

    The Massachusetts Green Communities Act forces the local utility to buy the 3GWh per year of electricity at retail prices. This forces the utility to sell it at a loss. Since the utility is unable to predict when and how strong the wind will be blowing, it must also purchase the normal amount of conventional energy for backup. All these losses to the local utility are passed on to the rest of the ratepayers they serve in the form of a renewable energy surcharge.

    In case some of you still think this is a good deal because it will reduce CO2, and save the world from Global Warming, forget it. The fossil fuel generators, running in backup mode, consume just as much fuel and produce just as much CO2 as if wind turbines didn’t exist.

    The Massachusetts Green Communities Act, and the Global Warming Solutions Act need to be repealed before we ruin the state’s economy.

    Buying Chinese made wind turbines to generate unneeded energy at more than twice the cost will only serve to boost the Chinese economy at our expense, while Climate Change continues unaffected!

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  1. Charlestown turbine starts up in October, shuts down in January « Wind Wise ~ Massachusetts

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