Eastham is poised to become the first Lower Cape town to sail boldly toward land-based wind power.
The town’s Energy Committee in January will issue Requests for Proposals from private developers to install up to four, 400-foot-tall wind turbines on two parcels of town-owned property in North Eastham.
At a community meeting in town hall Saturday, committee members explained the process and the reasons behind the project as more than 80 townspeople listened intently.
The committee said it doesn’t know which developers might respond to the RFPs, or how many turbines a developer will be willing to put up. But under the plan, the town would lease the land to the developer and the project would not cost townspeople a cent.
The town, in return for leasing the land to the developer for 20 years, would get a payment from the company every year. The amount of payment would have to be negotiated. The installation site is on two acres behind the bike trail, off Nauset Road and Railroad Ave near the cell tower and gravel pit.
Most people who attended the meeting Saturday favored wind energy over electrical or nuclear energy plants.
Kristin Goland, of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, said her group is working with the Energy Committee, and will provide the seed money to get the project going.
Committee member Gwen Pelletier, who led the meeting, held off questions until Richard Lawrence, a renewable energy professor, gave a detailed slideshow.
Lawrence showed photographs of turbines in relation to cell towers and telephone poles, and said studies show that people who live near wind turbines are unaffected by them, almost unaware of them.
He said property values are not adversely impacted by them, and those concerned about bird deaths can rest assured that there are only two or three bird deaths per turbine a year. He believed that is miniscule compared to the huge numbers of birds that are killed yearly by flying into windows, or by cats. One person has been killed by a wind turbine – a German woman who made a parachute jump into a wind farm.
His presentation was so complete, said Selectman Martin McDonald, “that he answered most of the significant questions.”
But there were some questions remaining – will trees come down? Will the towers be visible at every location in town? Will the town be liable if there is an accident?
Ric O’Connell, the project engineer, said that if four turbines go up, all would be visible from one location only – at Nauset Road near the old Tilcon Plant. They will not be visible from Nauset Beach, said Jack Slavin, the town’s management information systems director.
“One of the neat things about this site is it is mostly in the woods,” said Slavin. “We have a lot of trees in the area and in the winter, you might be able to see the turbines through the trees.”
Paul Lothrop asked, “This is costing the town nothing, but who is going to pay for liability insurance?
Whoever develops the project will pay that, Slavin explained.
“If a blade comes off and kills a biker, can you say absolutely that’s not the town’s liability?” Lothrop asked.
“Absolutely,” Slavin said
O’Connell said some may fear turbines will drive away tourists, but that has not been the case. Four wind turbines are in operation in Atlantic City, N.J., near a casino, and gamblers are asking for a hotel room on the wind turbine side, not the ocean side, he said.
A wind turbine developer who is involved with a project in Fairhaven said, “economies of scale are critical.” Some people have suggested that the energy committee start with one turbine. But if you just put one up, “that one ends up carrying the entire production and predevelopment costs, and tends to overburden it,” this developer said.
Selectman David Schropfer said the manager of the biggest wind farm in Denmark told him the project will have to “work financially” and that it will have to be “big enough to generate enough energy to absorb all these costs.”
The town cannot take so much out of it that it is not a viable project for whoever builds and owns it, Schropfer said.
All published Eastham reports and studies on the project are available on the town’s website at www.eastham-ma.gov.
By Marilyn Miller
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding