Wind turbines on Martha’s Vineyard exceeds expectations

The following article is one in a series of case studies to be included in AWEA’s upcoming Small Wind Turbine Market Report Year End 2011, which will be published soon. A fact sheet on the report is available here.

In November 2011, Clarissa Allen and Mitchell Posin, owners of Allen Farm in Chilmark, Mass., became the proud owners of the tallest wind turbine on Martha’s Vineyard, an Endurance E3120 on a 120-foot tower. The 50-kW turbine was commissioned on Thanksgiving Day.

The installation was also memorable for Gary Harcourt, co-owner and manager of Great Rock Windpower, who installed the turbine with his team. The turbine at Allen Farm was the 50th wind turbine the Great Rock team has installed and the 12th turbine on the Vineyard. According to Harcourt, the Allen Farm turbine is the "crown jewel" for him. It’s located on a beautiful rolling hill, with gorgeous ocean views, on a sheep farm that has been in Allen’s family for 300 years.

Harcourt, a cabinetmaker for 25 years, became involved in the small wind energy business back in 2007, installing Endurance wind turbines on Martha’s Vineyard. The Great Rock team installs other turbines beside the Endurance; his 12 installations on the island encompass two 50-kW machines, eight 5-kWs, one 6-kW and one 2.5-kW.

"The offshore controversy adds another layer of anti-wind sentiment," Harcourt said. "Every turbine we put up is pretty much a battle."

Harcourt first spoke to Allen and Posin in 2007 about installing their turbine. The Chilmark zoning board of appeals upheld a building permit for the Allen Farm turbine in January 2011. It was issued under a Massachusetts agricultural exemption that allows working farms to bypass the normal permitting process.

"According to Massachusetts state law, a farm cannot be unduly hampered with zoning bylaws," Harcourt said. "So for the most part, anyone can build anything they want on a farm as long as it relates to farming. The anti-winders put up a fight and contested the permit at a big hearing. Eventually we were successful because of the statute."

Another glitch in the permitting process resulted when it was realized that the turbine produces more electricity than the farm uses. Massachusetts has shared net metering, so to secure approval of the building permit, the Allens had to be able to use 51 percent of the electricity generated on their farm. They sell the remaining 49 percent to the local Home Port restaurant in Menemsha. The Allens use their electricity to power the farm outbuildings, including their lambing operation, and the aerators that Posin uses for his compost tea business.

Allen and Posin financed the project through Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank. They also received a $100,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the maximum grant for a small turbine based on predicted energy. The Clean Energy Center also funded the met tower.

In December 2011, NSTAR Electric & Gas Corporation approved the interconnection, and the turbine began producing energy. Harcourt said that he predicted lower performance than the actual. Favorable siting is one reason the turbine exceeds the production expectations: it is sited on a hill with great access to winds from all directions, and there are few trees and buildings in the immediate area.

According to Harcourt, an anti-wind group petitioned the town to pay for a third-party study of how much energy the turbine would produce and how much energy the farm would use to determine whether the Allens would use the required 51 percent. Harcourt was able to use the study, which predicted higher performance than he did, when the local banker called him for project information while processing the loan application for the turbine. Allen and Posin are thrilled with their turbine.

You can track the energy production of the Allen Farm turbine at

Ruth Baranowski, Consultant,