Friday, February 08, 2008

Clean Power

Clean Power
Originally uploaded by brentdanley.
Local Flickrer Brent Danley was on the scene earlier this week when construction workers erected a new 50 kW wind turbine on Saco Island, a redeveloping 19th-century mill district that lies between the downtown areas of Biddeford and Saco, Maine. The municipally-owned generator is expected to power the cities' new train station, which also includes offices for the local chamber of commerce. I'm looking forward to seeing it myself on my next train ride south.

The old textile mills on Saco Island have been largely abandoned for years, but now there are ambitious plans to revive them with new offices and condos. One thing that I find appealing about this new windmill is how it salvages a small scrap of the island's historic role as a productive, industrial place, even as it aims to transform itself into a yuppie consumers' haven.

The other neat thing about this new windmill is its odd-couple pairing with an older feature of the Biddeford-Saco skyline: the Maine Energy Recovery Corporation's (MERC) waste-to-energy incinerator, whose smokestack rises just a stone's throw away from the windmill on the Biddeford side of the Saco River.

Since the late 1980s, MERC has been incinerating Mainers' garbage to produce electricity, and in recent years, it has been facing increasing criticism from neighbors who think that the incinerator is incompatible with the twin cities' revitalizing downtowns.

MERC probably isn't going anywhere fast, but its new rival on the skyline ought to at least make a lot of Biddeford/Saco residents (including all those new condo dwellers) think hard about the electricity they use and the garbage they produce.

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