NORWELL – A plan to build six large wind turbines could go before voters at town meeting in the spring.
Petitions calling for construction of the turbines are now circulating. By collecting 10 signatures on each petition, Norwell resident David Brooks can put his proposal on the agenda at Town Meeting.
The municipal light department in Hull already has erected two turbines to help provide electric power, and several South Shore communities are considering wind-energy proposals. Most towns, however, are not now considering building more than one or two turbines.
The six turbines in Norwell would be scattered throughout the town and would provide enough energy to power every home, business and public building in Norwell, said Brooks, a wind-energy consultant working with an Iowa-based firm, J.P. Sayler and Associates.
Brooks is confident he will collect the necessary signatures.
“˜”˜It all boils down to how receptive the public is,” Brooks said. “˜”˜With a little bit of luck and some public support, Norwell will be the town to look at in the whole country to say, “˜This is how you do it.”’
If town meeting approves his idea, Brooks said he could have the first turbine running within a year.
“˜”˜I want wind turbines in Norwell as soon as possible,” he said. “˜”˜The bottom line is you need to put it on a public platform so it is discussed and solved.”
Norwell is the latest South Shore town to look at wind as a potential source of energy.
Hull was the first town on the South Shore to build a wind turbine and has since added a second. Now the town is looking to build up to four more about two miles offshore.
Kingston has completed a 12-month testing period for a wind turbine and could have one built as soon as 2008.
Scituate is testing a site near the town’s wastewater treatment plant to see if it is suitable for a wind turbine.
Brooks said he is also helping with a wind power petition in Weymouth.
Even with Brooks’ proposal, Norwell’s look at wind power remains in its infancy.
“˜”˜We’re just getting started on it,” said Norwell Town Administrator James Boudreau. “˜”˜The coastal towns are ahead of us on it.”
In the petitions, Brooks is asking residents to support the construction of wind turbines on town-owned land at the high school, the middle school, the Vinal and Cole elementary schools, the Pine Street landfill and the Stetson Meadow Conservation area. The town would be paid for the right to use the sites.
There is a separate petition being circulated to allow construction of a wind turbine at each of the proposed locations. Additionally, there is a petition to give Brooks the right to build a turbine at a seventh location on public land in town. Selectmen would chose that seventh location.
There is also a petition seeking to give Brooks the exclusive rights to investigate, permit, build, maintain and dismantle wind turbines in Norwell, for 10 years. That request, submitted by e-mail to Boudreau, is being reviewed by town counsel. Those rights, Brooks said, are worthless unless “˜”˜thousands of dollars in research is invested in it.”
Boudreau said the wind power concept is valid, but the town is concerned that it would be illegal for town meeting to give Brooks exclusive rights to develop the wind power.
State law would require the town to solicit bids from all qualified individuals, he said, not just Brooks.
Brooks said he is willing to bid on the contract if Norwell shows an interest in his idea. He said the town could save money if it chooses to buy the turbines and run them itself.
“˜”˜If they want to take the project over and run it municipally, I’m all for it,” he said.
Selectmen Chairman John Mariano said he has not yet reviewed the petitions, but believes it will take more than a town meeting vote to build the wind turbines. A new zoning bylaw may be needed, Mariano said, like the one the town created for cell phone towers.
The school committee and the selectmen will ultimately have to agree to the turbines before any work can start, he added.
“˜”˜I think we need to go slowly,” Mariano said. “˜”˜I think we need to look at how other towns have done it. You can’t rush into these things.”
By Andrew Lightman
The Patriot Ledger
Andrew Lightman may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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