WESTPORT – A preliminary site evaluation of the proposed location of a wind turbine behind Town Hall found the structure must be taller than once thought and may not produce the financial benefits anticipated by the Board of Selectmen.
The independent study was undertaken by Paul Gay, founder of Northeast Windpower Corp., a new Westport company that is now the distributor for Bergey Windpower Co.
The evaluation was based on the standards proposed by “Small Wind Electric Systems, A Massachusetts Consumer’s Guide,” published by the state Division of Energy Resources.
The Standard-Times obtained a copy of the evaluation.
To be minimally effective at Town Hall, the wind turbine needs to be 12 (120 feet) stories tall to clear the blades from wind interference from nearby trees, which stand about 70 feet tall, Mr. Gay said.
Mr. Gay wrote in his report, “…the bottom of a wind turbine blade should be at least 100 feet above the ground.”
The town could become the first municipality in Massachusetts to provide electrical power to a town hall by way of a wind turbine.
Initial discussions by the Board of Selectmen considered a 100-foot tower that would take up about one parking space behind Town Hall and pay for itself within four years. Police Chief Keith Pelletier has proposed a second wind turbine for the police station.
The $54,000 cost of a wind turbine is potentially partially reimbursable with a grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative. The collaborative is the state’s development agency for renewable energy and the innovation economy, which the organization asserts is responsible for a quarter of the jobs in the state.
The town could be eligible for a $42,000 grant, which could shorten the amortization period for the turbine.
Selectman David P. Dionne, who has been sponsoring a series of energy-saving and environmentally beneficial energy alternatives, said in December that the proposed wind turbine would generate 10 kilowatts for Town Hall, and reduce its electric bill with enough power left over to earn credits from the utility company.
The turbine would be best located beyond the far eastern boundary of the parking lot at the rear of Town Hall, close to the Highway Department, Mr. Gay said in his evaluation.
“There is very little space available directly north and south of Town Hall, so installing a tower in either of these locations would be difficult and could potentially interfere with access to the rear parking lot,” Mr. Gay wrote.
“A turbine could be installed in the rear parking area but this would interfere with parking spaces. Such a location would also present some risk of a vehicle accidentally hitting the tower. The tower could be fenced but this would potentially increase the area needed.
“An additional consideration is that there are many manhole covers and utility covers located in the parking lot which may be an indication of numerous underground utilities. Depending on the nature and exact location of these utilities, they could present an obstacle to tower foundations or underground wiring.
“One location that is presently unused is located on a small wooded are directly adjacent to the east edge of the blacktop parking area and just north of the Highway Department Building.”
The savings envisioned by the town may not be as significant as thought, Mr. Gay found.
Town Hall consumes about 5,400 kilowatt hours per month. The 10-kilowatt wind turbine envisioned by Mr. Dionne (the calculation by Mr. Gay is based on a Bergey Excel 10 KW turbine) would provide from 400 to 900 kilowatt hours a month to the building, providing savings of 7 percent at the lower end and 17 percent at the upper range, Mr. Gay said.
Mr. Gay advises the town erect a meteorological tower behind Town Hall to determine wind speed, which has a direct bearing on how much money can be saved.
By Joseph R. LaPlante
Standard-Times staff writer
20 February 2007