The Massachusetts Maritime Academy is ready to put wind in its sails. The Federal Aviation Administration has landed on Cape Cod Community College. The Town of Barnstable may have a wind farm of its own across the street from the Cape Cod Mall.
While the 130-turbine Cape Wind offshore generation project grapples with its new acquaintances in Washington (the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service), several land-based Cape efforts are in various stages of preparation.
On the windswept campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy overlooking Buzzards Bay in Bourne, Rear Admiral Rick Gurnon, president of the MMA board, says the order is in to Vestas of Denmark for a wind turbine and blades to be delivered in the spring. They’ll be a match for the unit that’s been operating for years in Hull.
“Sailboard magazine lists Buzzard Bay as one of the 10 windiest spots on earth,” Gurnon said. “When you design buildings, you have to put special hinges on because they literally blow off. Chicago is a distant 10th to Buzzards Bay in terms of wind resources.”
Three years ago, according to Gurnon, MMA began thinking about using fuel cell technology. When they presented their research to the Massachusetts Technology Council, which is charged with increasing the supply of renewable energy in the state, they got the message that wind was the favored direction.
“We quickly jumped on that two years ago,” Gurnon said. “Ultimately, we received a $500,000 grant from MTC and $325,000 through the efforts of (state) Sen. (Therese) Murray.”
Gurnon approached the state department of capital asset management, the school’s landlord, with the proposition that the school could save $225,000 to $250,000 in energy costs each year during the two-decade life span of the turbine. The other advantage: a hands-on opportunity for student engineers who will one day operate power plants throughout Massachusetts.
The Cashman company, of Big Dig fame, was the winning bidder and placed the order with Vestas. The pole on which the turbine will sit is being made in the Dakotas.
Last week, the Bourne Conservation Commission voted to approve the tower, which will sit in a flood zone. The question was whether any habitat used by protected species would be disturbed.
The tower, with a blade at 12 o’clock, will rise 247 feet, Gurnon said, well under the minimum altitude of 500 feet required by the FAA, which, he added, has OK’d the project.
Back in Barnstable
At another state institution, Cape Cod Community College, hopes were once high that the West Barnstable campus would raise the first wind tower on the Cape. Delays related to FAA concerns may have quashed that, however. “The last we heard, the Mass. Technology Collaborative was working with the FAA to look at alternative sites, or what we might do to adjust that initial position of the wind turbine,” said college director of communications Michael Gross.
As the project neared approval, Gross said, a mapping exercise indicated that the tower would be “in a piece of the flight pattern of Barnstable Municipal Airport if you missed an approach and had to do a come-around.” Down the road in Hyannis, the town already has permits for up to four wind turbines at its wastewater treatment facility on Bearse’s Way, according to senior project manager Mark Giordano of the Department of Public Works.
“We got permission from the FAA for both the test tower and turbines,” he said. “They did extend within the airport cone of influence, but only by 20 or 30 feet. There was not a significant impediment to navigation.” The significant impediment the town’s project encountered was last winter’s howling snowstorms. They delayed the raising of the 131-foot test tower, which will continue to gather data through the early part of the new year. By April or so, Giordano said, they’ll be enough of a record on which to base decisions about the number and siting of 186-foot turbine towers. There’s a $1.86 million appropriation for design and construction of the towers.
.And Elsewhere on the Cape
Wind advocates from across the Cape gave updates on their towns’ projects Friday at a municipal land-based wind workshop in Yarmouth sponsored by MTC, the Cape Light Compact, Cape and Islands Self Reliance, and the Waquoit Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve. With a year of test tower data, Eastham has established that it has sufficient wind for a turbine and is working with MTC on site evaluation. Orleans Is sending a letter of intent to Vestas for two turbines. Brewster has obtained a test tower but has yet to raise it.
Harwich plans to put up a test tower at its high school. The town already host a residential- scale turbine at Cape Cod Regional Technical High School in its Pleasant Lake section. Yarmouth wants to evaluate its high school as a site, but needs to examine potential conflicts with the airport. Falmouth is engaged in an economic analysis of wind power; there are five other players interested in putting in independent turbines in the town.
The MMA tower isn’t the only action in Bourne, where there’s interest in looking at Upper Cape Regional Technical High School.
Greg Watson of the MTC said there’s interest statewide in wind power, and while the Cape may be in the lead, the demand could cause a backlog. “One of the biggest problems these days is being able to acquire a wind turbine,” he said. “Everybody’s trying to get them built while they can take advantage of the tax incentive. GE is sold out through 2007; they’re taking orders for 2008.”
Edward F. Maroney is Associate Editor of The Barnstable Patriot.