The proposed $3.8 million wind turbine project to be erected on Town Farm Road has temporarily run out of air.
The project hit a funding snag when word came that the turbine was not selected under the Federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program. The bond is the product of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, signed by President George W. Bush in August, allocating $800 million to clean energy projects for municipalities countrywide.
The bond, a 20-year zero interest federal loan, would have covered the entire cost of the turbine, which would provide an estimated 3 percent of the town’s energy or enough electricity to support 400 households.
Electric Light Subcommittee member James Engel said during the review process, $3 million was set as the cut off. Since the Ipswich the 1.65-megawatt wind turbine was proposed at a cost of $3.8 million, it didn’t make the cut.
“There is talk of authorizing an additional $400 million,” said Engel. “Where we sit on the next incumbent, I don’t know.”
If the legislation passes, the Electric Light Department will have to reapply for the bond to try for the additional money.
Ipswich Citizens Advocating for Renewable Energy co-chairman Jason Wertz said momentum has slowed, but support for the project is still strong.
“I still feel it is a project that is going to happen,” he said. “How and exactly what, and the cost, has always been the question.”
The ELD subcommittee has been meeting to discuss options to keep the project alive. Money taken from the Electric Light Department budget has fueled the beginning stages of the project, namely a feasibility report produced in 2005 by Meridian Associates, site and soil evaluations, and civil engineering services.
An article at last years spring Town Meeting asked the town to borrow $136,000 for the design and permitting of the turbine.
But the use of this seed money was contingent on the granting of the CREBS. Now, without the funding, the subcommittee has been discussing the possibility of private developers using the town site to create a public/private cooperative project.
“The town would provide the site,” said Engel, and “the developer would finance and construct the turbine.”
Another thought among the subcommittee, according to Engel, is looking at alternative locations for the turbine.
“The notion is the Town Farm Road site (at the site of the old transfer station) may not be the best site in town,” said Engle. “There may be more favorable winds in other places in town.”
The objective is to make the project economically viable, he said.
There is no talk about changing the physical characteristics of the turbine, which would stand 260 feet tall with three 80-foot blades and a 15-foot base.
Wertz said ICARE is trying to stay positive and is ready to support the subcommittee’s decisions concerning the project.
“Everyone involved is very committed to making it happen,” he said of the project.
In addition, Wertz said ICARE is excited about addressing conservation issues in town. He said a lot has been learned over the last few years about the many things that can be done in town to conserve energy.
“People will continue to hear a lot about conservation this year,” he said, “and thinking about what can be done in town on a consumer level.”
Engle said voters might see an article on this year’s spring Town Meeting in April for approval of money to do more site evaluations or for approval to lease the property to a private entity. In order to get approval for the entire cost of the project, proponents would need a two-thirds vote of Town Meeting and a majority vote in an election.
By Natalie Millerfirstname.lastname@example.org
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