Hull Wind: A Real Urban Wind Turbine

By Paul Gipe

Hull is a small coastal town 13 km (8 miles) across the bay from Boston, and is only 8 km (5 miles) south from Logan International Airport. The village has a long history with wind since settlement. But its acquaintance with modern wind energy begins in 1985 when it installed an Enertech E44 near Hull High School at the appropriately named Windmill Point.

Despite a good wind resource, the E44 turned in a checkered performance and the turbine was eventually removed. Surprisingly, that experience didn’t turn the community off from the idea of using the wind. The climate for wind remained favorable and local wind advocates championed a new project.

This article is adapted from Wind Energy for the Rest of Us beginning on page 504.

On December 27, 2001 John MacLeod, the manager of the Hull Light Plant, and a group of community activists dedicated a new Vestas V47 at the same site (see Figure 20-17. Hull 1). They intended for the 660-kW turbine to provide municipal lighting for the town of 10,000. The dedication took place during the darkest week of the year, symbolically saying to the community at large that the lights of Hull would shine brightly without the burning of oil, like the lamps in the temple at Jerusalem celebrated during Hanukkah, the festival of lights.

Hull’s V47, one of growing number of urban wind turbines in North America, has become the pride of the community. Hull Light’s MacLeod reports that tourists to Windmill Point have increased three-fold since the commercial wind turbine was put into service. The Vestas turbine not only powers all of Hull’s streetlights, traffic lights, and other municipal lighting needs–more than 400,000 kWh annually–but also generates more than sufficient revenue, says MacLeod, to pay for its maintenance. Hull was so satisfied with their V47 that they considered expanding further.

The city surveyed residents about their attitudes toward the turbine and the possibility of adding another wind turbine. More than 90% approved of the proposal.

The city installed Hull 2, a Vestas V80, in 2006 on a reclaimed landfill designated the Wier River Estuary Park, making it the first wind turbine installed on a landfill in North America. The 1.8 MW wind turbine stands on pilings driven 80 feet into the landfill.

The two turbines proved so popular that the community weighed installing more wind turbines offshore, but as of 2012 there was no program in Massachusetts that paid a sufficient amount for the electricity to justify the venture.

Hull’s success soon came to the attention of city fathers across the bay.


While there are no large wind turbines in so-called “green” cities such as San Francisco or Los Angeles, several large wind turbines have been installed in Boston. Massachusetts’ Water Resource Authority installed two 600-kW turbines at its sewage treatment plant on Deer Island in Boston Harbor and followed those with a 1.5 MW turbine at its headquarters in central Boston. Altogether the three turbines are expected to save the authority 6 million kWh per year.

In fact there are more medium-size and large wind turbines in distributed applications, such as those at Hull, scattered across Massachusetts than in California, a state 16 times larger. Some of these installations are at noteworthy sites, such as the 100-kW turbine at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers just south of Boston on I-93. Or the commercial-scale wind turbines at the Maritime Academy and the three units at the Cape Cod Air Force Station.