Large scale commercial wind power generation suffered a setback in town with a recent study based on Federal Aviation Administration standards limiting the height of turbines in air space on the approach to Chatham Municipal Airport.
The study, conducted by Aviations Systems Inc. of Georgia, cites the potential for height restrictions on large wind turbines over much of the town. Barry Worth, chairman of the town’s utilities and energy conservation commission, said this week the report is under study, but it is clear regulations “limit the size and kilowatt ratings to be put up.”
The study comes at a time when the board of appeals is scheduled to address a variance request to allow a commercial wind turbine at The Depot, a commercial business located along Depot Street in North Harwich, adjacent to the town of Dennis.
Worth said North Harwich is one of the areas in town that is not impacted by the restricted zone. That box-shaped zone runs from a location just west of Red River Beach to the Dennis town line just south of the West Harwich Reservoir, north to a point just east of the Mill Pond in Brewster and east to the interchange of Route 137 and the Mid-Cape Highway. Worth estimated it encompasses 85 percent of the town.
“It’s not dead, it’s not the end of the line,” Worth said of the restrictions. “It’s a roadblock we can get around.”
FAA regulations will not prohibit the installation of wind turbines within those boundaries, though the agency will limit the height of towers. Worth said large commercial turbines, 400 feet high with a 1500 kilowatt capacity, would not be allowed to be installed within that area. This is not really a major setback, he said, if wind is sufficient at lower levels.
The town has been working with Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to study wind capacity, with an eye on locating wind turbines on town property adjacent to Harwich High School. It was MTC which sought the study.
The town has an anemometer set up on property at Harwich High School to collect data. That location has been chosen as a primary site for wind turbines to provide municipal power to the schools, golf course and water department.
Worth said the town would be allowed to locate a wind turbine not higher than 231 feet at that location, and that might be good enough to place 600 kilowatt units there. The commission chairman said it remains a worthwhile effort to collect the anemometer data for that location. Worth said turbines the size of the one operating at Massachusetts Maritime Academy still might be fine for that location.
Bu, he admitted his commission will have to do research for better locations, matching up town-owned land more suitable for higher towers and electrical infrastructure for distributing the energy.
There are several possibilities in town outside the box that remains suitable for locating commercial towers, Worth told selectmen last week. They include a narrow band south of Route 28 to Nantucket Sound running from South Harwich to the Dennis town line, and a pie-shaped area of North Harwich just south of The Depot to Brewster.
Worth said the area of the proposed commercial wind turbine is outside the box, and the restrictions should not be a consideration for the applicant going before the board of appeals on Jan. 31.
Gerald Bojanowski of Depot Development, LLC is seeking to locate a 20 kW turbine system on the nearly three-acre parcel in the town’s light industrial zone. The tower would be 100 feet and blade extension would raise it to 115.5 feet.
“We do not feel the installation of this wind turbine and tower will have any adverse affect on the neighborhood in which we are located. We are located in an industrial zone where personal wireless towers are permitted and are within a short distance of two large–greater than 200 feet–towers in the abutting industrial zone in the town of Dennis,” Bojanowski explained in his application for the variance.
He pointed out town meeting approved a zoning bylaw in May allowing residential wind energy systems to be installed with turbines up to 25 kW and a height of 150 feet on parcels 40,000 square feet and larger.
“We are encouraged by the town’s forward thinking regarding the very important issue of reducing the consumption of utility supplied electricity,” he noted. “We are hopeful that by way of variance that our small business “¦ may also be able to participate in reducing our dependence of non-renewable fossil fuels much like our neighbors in residential districts are able to do.”
While the town has put in place residential wind turbine zoning, it has also left a spot in the bylaw to include a commercial provision. Town Planner Susan Leven said this week the language was not ready in the form of an article for last Friday’s deadline for filing for the annual town meeting. She said it is “far more likely” to be placed in a special town meeting, should one be called within the annual session.
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