The town’s first commercial wind turbine “whooshed” closer to reality last week with approval of Country Garden’s West Main Street location by the Site Plan Review Committee.
The proposal for a 120-foot high monopole wind tower with a 32-foot rotor diameter leaves only a few legal questions, and a perceived need for general criteria for this and other such future projects, for this one to advance.
Richard Lawrence of Cape and Islands Self Reliance Corp. and a professor at Cape Cod Community College, addressed several questions previously posed by site plan agents regarding sale of excess power, a utility plan for the trench and turbine hookup, approval from airport and FAA officials and whether zoning relief might be needed on height.
As to the sale of excess power, Lawrence’s presentation noted that Country Garden, a 6.6-acre garden nursery at 380 West Main St., Hyannis, uses 211,000 kilowatts a year. He said the proposed tower would produce 138,000 KWs a year.
That production will help power sprinklers, lights, fans, vents, lamps and assorted pumps required to maintain the nursery, its greenhouses and aquatic plants. Even though the turbine will be connected to the power grid, the intent of Country Garden is to use all of the energy generated by the turbine on site, Lawrence said.
Before the health division’s Dale Saad could ask, Lawrence answered questions about the level of noise the windmill will generate and the amount of lubricants attendant to the turbine’s operation. He said new windmill design uses a direct drive, negating the need for gearboxes, the usual sources of sound, limiting the use of lubricants to about two liters, a similar amount used by other on-site equipment. He said the turbine would get regular maintenance about every six months.
Using an onomatopoeia, (a word that mimics sound), Lawrence likened the hum of the blades to the “whoosh, whoosh, whoosh” of one of Country Garden’s water sprinklers and said the monopole design, rather than a metal lattice shaft, allows the pole to quickly disappear into the environment. He said the noise is less than 10 percent of ambient sound of the nearby street or equipment in use at the nursery.
Dan Ojala of Down Cape Engineering said he was certain airport and Federal Aviation Administration approvals would be forthcoming and noted time was of the essence since Country Garden has a time-sensitive application for a grant to help build the tower.
Letters from the local and state historical commissions evidenced the agencies have no objection to the project and that it will not impact any historical resource. A letter from the regional U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service notes that based on available information there are no federally or proposed threatened or endangered species or critical habitat under the agency’s jurisdiction on the site.
A letter was also presented offering proof of insurance and that the access road to the construction site already exists. The turbine would be place in the middle of the long, rectangular lot.
On this point, Lawrence noted that windows on buildings kill more than 100 million birds a year, but humans do not stop constructing buildings with windows in them. Even the Audubon Society, a premier conservation advocate to save soil, water, plants and wildlife, will be using windmills, he noted.
Planning director Tom Broadrick, noting that planners were not looking to “nip the project in the bud,” said planners nonetheless see a need to establish a criterion for such projects and since this is the first commercial one in the town, could help in developing standards.
Principals of the Country Garden project agreed to attend a planning sub-committee meeting to discuss the issue of establishing protocols for this and similar projects in the town.
Lawrence also gave site planners food for thought on the general need for renewable clean energy by noting that Canal Electric plant burns 30,000 gallons of oil per hour to generate electricity and that in general 84 percent of energy demand is derived from fossil fuels whose emissions pollute the atmosphere.
Historically, he said a windmill was used in the early days of Oyster Harbors to power a water pump. Of the Vermont-made wind turbine, he said is designed to remain viable in extreme weather locations such as Antarctica and Alaska.
Windmill ordinance goes to council
Town planners don’t want windmill projects to blow past them and are offering a zoning ordinance to allow and review the structures.
The ordinance would cover both commercial and residential zoning districts via a special permit, but requires any wind tower to be an accessory to a permitted used.
The town has an interest in constructing wind and other generating facilities and does not want to be an impediment. There’s also recognition that not all properties can accommodate a wind tower.
“It is the express purpose of this ordinance to accommodate distributed generation/wind energy conversion facilities in appropriate locations, while minimizing any adverse visual, safety and environmental impacts of the facilities,” the draft reads.
The draft ordinance was developed by the planning board’s zoning subcommittee and covers siting, height, setbacks and aspects related to decommissioning and removal. The ordinance will get a first reading at next week’s council meeting and will be referred to a joint public hearing of the council and planning board at a later date.
By Paul Gauvin
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