By Cape Codder and Register staff
Friday, September 1, 2006
Peter Sousa recently had some advice for Provincetown selectmen before he left town, headed to Vermont for more-affordable housing.
Saying a lack of high-wage jobs contributes to the town’s problems, Sousa suggested that the town invest in renewable energy and position itself as a leader in wind, wave and solar energy.
In particular, he said Provincetown could become “the Saudi Arabia of wind.”
Whether or not there is as much wind blowing over the sands of Cape Cod as there is oil under the sands of the Arabian peninsula, several local towns are exploring ways to tap the resource.
Bourne is furthest along in searching for a “guster,” with two turbines erected earlier this year – one at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the other at Upper Cape Cod Regional Vocational Technical School.
Although Upper Cape Tech Superintendent Barry Motta said when the turbine was installed that it could power three well-insulated homes or a 30-year-old house with less insulation for a year, the turbine is strictly educational and will not power the school.
Pocasset residents Francis and Wendy Howland have proposed building a 120-foot turbine on their 1.5-acre property, and the town is working on a draft residential turbine law for presentation at the fall Town Meeting.
After a dispute earlier this year over access to the site that potentially threatened the project, the Orleans board of water commissioners and Massachusetts Technology Collaborative are moving forward with plans to install two turbines in the town watershed to power the iron and manganese water treatment plant.
The town has accepted the MTC’s financial offer of the collaborative owning the turbines for 20 years and making an initial Payment in Lieu of Taxes of $64,000. The PILOT would increase by 7 percent, after compounding, every three years.
Orleans would also be able to use up to 170,000 free kilowatt-hours annually for the water treatment plant and buy additional electricity at a reduced rate. With the financials settled, the parties now have to work on a lease agreement.
Provincetown Town Manager Keith Bergman has asked for help from the MTC to search for funding as well as to implement tests to determine the viability of turbines, with the transfer station mentioned most frequently as a possible location.
Truro selectmen made the commitment this summer to explore areas where wind turbines would be possible in addition to the Highland Center in North Truro, where a meteorological tower will take measurements to determine whether turbines would be feasible on the new arts and sciences campus.
Brewster and Harwich are also collecting data from test towers. Brewster’s is at the golf course, and Harwich’s is at the high school. Wellfleet will also be putting up a test tower.
In June, Brian Braginton-Smith of Community Wind Power made a proposal to the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School Committee that he said could save the district up to $140,000.
Community Wind Power would build two $3 million turbines at Station Avenue Elementary and D-Y High School and pay the district $50,000 per year to lease the land. Braginton-Smith said the district would save more money as the market price of electricity increased, and once the debt for building the turbines was paid, the schools would share the profits.
The district’s jobs would include help during the permitting process, participating in monitoring and outreach for students and residents. The school committee did not vote on the proposal.
In the town of Yarmouth, that town’s energy committee dropped preliminary plans to build between one and six turbines on town-owned land near Horse Pond after the Federal Aviation Administration expressed height concerns relative to the Barnstable Municipal Airport.
Yarmouth is now considering sites near the Dennis-Yarmouth Regional Schools complex off Station Avenue and the town’s septage treatment facility.
The town, through its energy committee, is also weighing the pros and cons of forming a wind collaborative which would pool the turbines of neighboring towns into one aggregate supply. The idea behind the proposal is to make wind energy more economically viable by reaching a project “threshold” of between 30 and 40 megawatts.
Chatham’s water and sewer advisory committee developed a plan for a test tower near the town’s water treatment facility in 2004, but current committee member Al Haven said the project is on the back burner for now while the town waits to see how things work out in Harwich and Orleans.
“At the moment, there’s a very low-key consideration,” he said. “There are several reasons why it’s not being pursued, even though Chatham is one of the windiest places on the Cape.”
What Haven called a lack of enthusiasm from selectmen is one reason why planning has slowed down, but he also said the Federal Aviation Administration might find it to be a hazard to navigation because it is so close to Chatham Municipal Airport and its height of more than 400 feet.
“Generally, anything within two miles of an airport comes within the FAA jurisdiction,” he said. “It’s like a 40-story building in Chatham.”
Reporters Matthew Belson, Steven Desroches, Bill Fonda, Douglas Karlson, Marilyn Miller, Nicole Muller and Craig Salters contributed to this story.
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