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Small town offers offshore site -- GE responds with 4 MW prototype

The tiny town of Hull, Massachusetts, has officially entered the race to build America's first offshore wind farm. Located about 20 miles south-east of Boston, the town is built on a narrow peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and Boston Harbor on the other. An 18 MW offshore project is being considered, but to start with, the townspeople want to see one offshore turbine to allow them to get to know the technology.

Hull has its own municipal electricity system for all residents. Two years ago Hull Municipal Light erected a Vestas turbine on town property on its shoreline, which has logged a respectable capacity factor of 26.3%. Most townspeople seem pleased with their turbine and are willing go take a further step in wind power development. Early contact with GE Wind Energy has brought a positive response from the American wind turbine manufacturer. The company's Benjamin Bell told the town authority last month that GE Wind Energy is "extremely interested" in Hull's proposed offshore and onshore wind power projects."

He added. "We are particularly keen on the opportunity to deploy our 3.6/4.0 MW prototype wind turbine in an 18 MW phased project offshore Hull, with the first phase being a single prototype machine."

GE Wind Energy further says it would like the prototype project to be a commercially viable direct sale with full equipment and performance warranties and an agreement to return lost generation revenue as a result of prototype testing. "We feel that we could offer Hull (or some other equity partner) a very competitive price for this machine and perhaps meet your goal of a 2004 installation."

Meanwhile, the town is also considering erecting more land-based turbines. John MacLeod, Hull Light's manager, even hopes to eventually use wind generated electricity to operate a desalination plant for the town, although he admits that such a project would be for a much later date.

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