With rapidly rising electric costs taking an increasingly large bite out of its budget, the Provincetown Public Pier Corp. has taken the first step towards exploring the feasibility of using wind power to help reduce its expenses.
The board voted last week to hire Cape & Islands Self-Reliance Corp., a nonprofit corporation working to promote environmentally sound technologies such as wind power, to perform a “pre-assessment,” an initial look at the site which results in advice on next steps to take. The $95 pre-assessment will allow the Pier Corp. to gather preliminary information on the potential effectiveness of putting a wind turbine on the end of MacMillan Pier or on the harbor breakwater.
“This is something we’re all very interested in. I think we should take the first steps to see if it’s feasible,” said Len Clingham, Pier Corp. chair.
“I’m all for wind power,” added member Lee Ash.
Harbormaster Rex McKinsey said that in addition to reducing the $30,000 annual electric bill for MacMillan Pier, any excess power generated by a turbine could be used as emergency back-up power for the town itself.
The reality of putting a wind turbine somewhere around the harbor likely would be a long process, however.
“Wouldn’t it be nice if Provincetown was the only town on the Outer Cape with power during a storm?” said McKinsey. “I think this [wind power] is a medium or long-term project. But I think we should start heading down that road to see if there’s public support.”
Preliminary research last year indicated that a single wind turbine the size of the one in Hull, visible when either flying into Boston or taking the ferry from Provincetown, would produce enough power to meet the entire town’s electrical needs. The Hull windmill, operated by the Hull Municipal Light Plant, is 164 feet high with a rotor-diameter of 154 feet. It produces approximately 660 kilowatts of power, enough to meet about four percent of the electrical needs of that town, which has an average population of 11,000.
One of the probable sticking points to erecting a wind turbine in Provincetown is the aesthetics of putting a potentially tall wind turbine in the harbor. Selectman David Nicolau, while a proponent of wind power, said he is unsure if he could support such a move.
“I don’t know if I’d like to look out on Provincetown Harbor and see a windmill. I’d rather see one in the Seashore,” he said.
Cape Cod National Seashore is already gathering data to assess the feasibility of installing a wind turbine at the Highlands Center in North Truro. Last March, a meteorological tower was put on Seashore property near the Highland Lighthouse to gather data on wind speed and direction. The project, sponsored by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative and the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at UMass-Amherst, will gather data for a year before reporting on the economic feasibility of putting a turbine on the site. Lauren McKean, National Seashore planner, said the results from the first six months are promising.
McKinsey said that recent technology has significantly reduced the noise created by the whirling rotors, another potential sore spot for Provincetown residents. In addition, he said, a wind turbine would be near the end of MacMillan Pier, which is a quarter of a mile away from shore.
“Some people may think it would be ugly. But there are people who think they’re beautiful,” he said. “When you look at this sleepy fishing village, look to the top of the hill. The [Pilgrim] Monument is an icon.”
“It may be slam dunk for us on the pier or out on the breakwater,” added Pier Corp. member Phil Tarvers. “Cormorants are not an endangered species.”
By Pru Sowers
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