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Innovative engineering helps Shoals Marine Lab's new wind turbine meet seabird code

The prefabricated components of the specially designed, freshly galvanized, 9,000-pound steel A-frame and 80-foot mast for the wind turbine tower arrived on Appledore Island on a beautiful June evening. Every square foot of deck space on the research vessel John M. Kingsbury was needed to ferry what looked like a giant Erector set across the six miles of Bigelow Bight in the Gulf of Maine. After the parts were unloaded, they were taken one at a time to the tower's site, a rocky knob on the north side of the island, where each of the A-frame's four posts was anchored into bedrock with foot-long screws capable of withstanding 120 mile-per-hour winds.

The A-frame tower was designed this way -- without supporting cables or a lattice tower (of which the Eiffel Tower is the most famous example) -- to meet strict Maine regulations and concerns over installing a wind turbine on a seabird-nesting island, and along the migratory routes of passerine birds.

This custom-designed tower by Robert Pechie, engineer and CEO of Northeast Wind Energy, has a counterbalance and a pivot-point built into the long mast that holds the turbine and allows operators to easily swing the turbine down for maintenance, educational inspections or to protect migrating birds.

The wind turbine's impact on birds will be closely monitored, as the Maine Department of Environmental Protection's wind turbine operating permit allows for 30 bird deaths annually or a single event of seven bird deaths; if exceeded, the turbine will be lowered indefinitely, pending further discussion. The turbine could also be lowered during migration season. Bird experts at Shoals Marine Lab, however, note that the wind tower sits above the birds' normal flight altitude.

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