SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

December 4, 2012

A 'green' experiment

Verizon trial puts three wind turbines on Salem garage

BY TOM DALTON
STAFF WRITER

---- — SALEM — A curious scientific trial with potentially profound implications for the world of wireless communication is under way on the roof of the Salem Harbor Garage.

In this unlikely spot on Salem’s historic waterfront, from which trading ships once sailed to the far corners of the globe using only wind power, Verizon Wireless is turning to the wind and sun in the hope of delivering the latest generation of wireless cellular technology to the far and hard-to-reach corners of its own commercial network.

Verizon has teamed up with Wing Power Energy, a Burlington company with a research facility on Canal Street, to erect three small wind turbines on the roof of the garage at the intersection of Derby and Congress streets. The hybrid turbines have solar panels to collect more energy.

For Verizon, this represents a possible breakthrough — an independent, clean energy source that will allow it to locate cell technology in remote areas not connected to an electrical grid.

“Finding real estate is easy, but finding power is hard ...” said Gagan Puranik, associate director of Verizon Wireless’ Innovation Center in Waltham.

The small turbines could allow Verizon to expand its cell coverage while filling in holes in its high-speed communications network.

“We’re trying to see how we can use this technology to bring 4G LTE to rural markets and also to certain urban markets” with poor cell reception, Puranik said.

Verizon’s trial began this fall and is expected to go several months. It has been going well enough for the two companies to hold a press conference yesterday at the Salem Waterfront Hotel to discuss their collaboration.

“So far, the data has been very promising,” Puranik said.

Mayor Kim Driscoll said the city has been happy to host this “green” experiment in a corner of the garage where no parking spaces had to be sacrificed.

In return, Salem is getting free public Wi-Fi, an electric signboard at street level for community messages or other uses, and security cameras on the garage roof.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to demonstrate what a green community we know Salem is,” Driscoll said.

During her years in the corner office, the mayor has introduced solar-powered trash barrels, LED streetlights and traffic signals, and electric vehicle-charging stations.

She also has pushed for a large wind turbine at Winter Island, but with less success.

For Wing Power, this is a chance to display its “vertical micro wind turbine,” which sells for $15,000 to $20,000. The turbines on the garage roof, which appear to produce little sound, generate up to 3.5 kilowatts, or enough energy to power an average home, a company official said.

Two-year-old Wing Power, however, is marketing the turbines to retail stores and businesses.

Tom Dalton can be reached at tdalton@salemnews.com.