Harvesting the wind at Cape Cod Air Force Station

  • Published
  • By Randy Pieper
  • 21st Civil Engineer Squadron

It's not just the leaves that are changing at Cape Cod Air Force Station. The Air Force station is also changing the way it gets electricity as two new giant wind turbines are being installed at the 6th Space Warning Squadron.

The new wind turbines can produce up to 3.2 megawatts of power combined. When the wind is blowing, as it often does near the coastal New England site, the turbines will produce more electricity than the base consumes. Through a net metering agreement with the local electric company, the 6th SWS will make money selling wind energy. With a little help from Mother Nature, the annual savings is estimated to be more than $600,000 a year, recouping more than 50 percent of Cape Cod AFS's annual electric bill.

The installation of the wind turbines will put Cape Cod AFS in line with the Air Force's goal of using 25 percent renewable energy by 2025, said Steve Mellin, the 6th SWS support officer.

"Where we're stationed here on the Massachusetts seashore, there is extremely high potential to generate wind energy," he said. “We're in one of the better spots on the east coast to take advantage of the wind energy

Two other organizations on Joint Base Cape Cod, which hosts the 6th SWS, use wind energy. The new turbines, numbers four and five on JBCC, will be used to power the Pave PAWs radar system operated at the 6th SWS, Mellin said.

"This is a great opportunity to demonstrate how renewable energy can be used in-line with mission operations," he added.

The project was funded by the Department of Defense's Energy Conservation Investment Program and is expected to pay for itself within 12 years, according to the Air Force Civil Engineer Center.

In addition to saving money, the turbines will also reduce air pollution. Each turbine will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 1,000 metric tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon dioxide annually according to AFCEC officials.

"Watching the installation of these huge structures has been an interesting experience," Mellin said. The tower arrived in three separate pieces, he said, ranging from 72- to 97-feet long. Each blade is 120-feet long and comes in on a specially designed trailer. When the base of the each turbine was poured, a convoy of concrete trucks rolled in to deliver 1,100 tons of concrete," Mellin said. "The crane used to assemble the turbines arrived on 21 flatbed trucks and had to be assembled onsite."

The project is expected to be complete by January 2014.