High-tech wind power met old-fashioned road pavement Thursday as a truck hauling an 80-foot-long, 197,000-pound tube for a major power generation project in Mars Hill got stuck.
The driver's inability to make a turn from a road at Mack Point onto U.S. Route 1 resulted in the tube rolling off its trailer, damaging the road surface. Traffic was blocked for at least three miles.
About 50 tower sections resembling giant culverts 10 feet in diameter arrived by ship at Mack Point. They were put onto flat trailers designed for oversize loads.The sections are part of the $55 million Mars Hill Wind Farm project being developed by Evergreen Wind Power LLC.
At full capacity, the wind farm will generate 42 megawatts annually, enough to power 45,000 homes. At a more likely 35 percent production, it will provide electricity for 22,000 average Maine homes.
Evergreen Wind Power officials did not return telephone messages left Thursday afternoon.
On Thursday morning, as the first truck climbed the hill on Trundy Road leading from Mack Point to Route 1, law enforcement officers and the town public works crew stopped traffic from both directions and redirected it around downtown Searsport.
The truck had planned a left turn, west toward Belfast, where the route would take the tower section to state Route 141 and eventually to Interstate 95, and finally to the Mars Hill area in Aroostook County.
Because of the angled turn, and utility poles on both sides of Trundy Road, the trucks were expected to do some forward-and-back maneuvering before getting onto Route 1. But before the driver could begin making the turn, the lower front portion of the trailer began scraping across the road surface, chewing up pavement and spilling the section onto the road.
Ben Tracy, a graphic designer for Hamilton Marine at the Trundy Road-Route 1 intersection, said the mishap got his and his co-workers' attention.
"We heard it. A bunch of us went down [to look at it]," he said Thursday afternoon.
A co-worker witnessed the first, failed attempt at a turn, Tracy said, and told his co-workers: "There's no way that's going to turn.
"Sure enough, the attempt failed, and the tower section rolled.
With the help of chains and giant payloaders from Sprague Energy, which operates the Mack Point port facilities, the tower section was put back onto the trailer, apparently none the worse for wear. The effort took several hours, though, Tracy said.
Further attempts at negotiating the turn, using different strategies and equipment, also failed, and the lead truck finally backed down Trundy Road and parked.
Another attempt is expected to be made today or Saturday.
The Mars Hill project is the first major wind power farm to be approved in Maine. When complete, it will be the largest such farm in New England.
Twenty-eight towers with turbines will rise 262 feet along the ridge of the mountain. Foundations for the towers already have been poured.
In the spring, the company unloaded 84 turbine blades manufactured in Brazil, each 125 feet long and weighing 15,000 pounds, from a ship at Mack Point. They were delivered by truck to Mars Hill.
The 82-foot-tall center and 98-foot-tall top tower sections, manufactured in Canada, were to be shipped by rail or truck to the Mars Hill site. The bottom sections are too wide at their base for rail shipment and so were brought by ship to Mack Point from a port on the St. Lawrence Seaway.
The electrical generators, each weighing 60 tons, manufactured in Florida, were to be shipped by rail from Pensacola to Aroostook County.