2016-01-28 / Around Town

Portsmouth's Controversial Icon Disappears

By Betsy Sherman Walker

Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. 
(Photo by Jack Kelly) Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. (Photo by Jack Kelly) Between circling helicopters (curiosity factor) and the arrival of cranes and backhoes, the ill-fated windmill located at Portsmouth High School is going out in a blaze of glory. After nearly four years of sitting idle, the turbine has been taken apart and brought back down to earth. “The blades came down last night,” said Portsmouth Town Council member David Gleason, when we spoke with him on Wednesday, Jan. 27.

The turbine was built in 2009, and suddenly stopped spinning in 2012 when the gearbox broke. After that the manufacturer went bankrupt. Financially, at least, the original turbine had been a success, so the big challenge for the town of Portsmouth was how to proceed. As with most home appliances, Gleason explained, “repairing the old one was too expensive. There was no guarantee it would continue to run.” In November of 2014 the Council voted to enter into a contract with Wind Energy Development (WED) of North Kingstown (which is currently installing ten of the same turbines for the town of Coventry) and reached an agreement which worked out fiscally for both the town and for WED. In an effort to minimize disrupting the students’ schedules, Gleason said they are aiming for a completion date sometime early this summer.

Jan. 26, evening. 
(Contributed photo) Jan. 26, evening. (Contributed photo) Gleason told Newport This Week that the new turbine, which will be located within 20 to 40 feet of the old one, “is the best of the possible replacements that we explored.” Turbine technology has evolved since 2009. The original gearbox, Gleason said, was “about the size of a queen-size mattress.” Today’s models, he added, do not even have one.

Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. 
(Photo by Murray Norcross) Jan. 27 at 1:30 p.m. (Photo by Murray Norcross)

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