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UMPI wind turbine catches fire Easter night

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — An investigation is underway into what caused a fire in the generator of the University of Maine Presque Isle’s wind turbine, which led to a brief campus power outage Sunday.

The University of Maine at Presque Isle’s wind turbine generator is engulfed in flames late Easter Sunday night. Fire and other emergency crews were on scene.
(Paula Brewer)

Around 10:45 p.m. April 1, the Presque Isle Fire Department responded to a fire at UMPI’s wind turbine. The fire occurred in the turbine’s nacelle, the covered section that houses the motor,  generator, gearbox and other mechanics, according to Rachel Rice, UMPI community and media relations director.

“It appears that the turbine generator caught on fire and the overload from it subsequently tripped the campus breakers,” Rice said in a statement. “This caused most of campus to lose power, though with help from Emera, power was restored at around 1:30 a.m.”

Rice said that the cause of the fire was not clear as of Monday morning and that an assessment of what happened and the extent of the damage is underway. Technicians from Vestas, the Danish company that manages the turbine’s maintenance, were set to be on site Monday to start a damage assessment, Rice said.

It is not clear if the turbine was damaged beyond repair.

Rice said that no one was near the turbine as the fire occurred. The turbine is located at the edge of UMPI’s athletic fields and is more than 1,000 feet from student dormitories and other university buildings.

The 600 kilowatt turbine was installed in 2009 at a cost of $2 million. The turbine can generate roughly 700,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year — enough to power about 65 average American homes — and is estimated to save UMPI approximately $100,000 annually in electricity costs.


(Video courtesy of Brooke Hallett)

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