If Harry Hibbard is any indication, a proposal to build four offshore wind turbines at Harding’s Ledge will have no trouble getting approved by voters at the annual town meeting.
The lawyer and Hull resident appeared at a hearing about the project wearing a T-shirt featuring a likeness of a wind turbine that read: “˜”˜The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.” Others in the crowd wore similar T-shirts.
Hibbard and about 70 others on Saturday listened to officials detail the possible size and scope of the Hull Wind III proposal.
The offshore turbines, combined with two existing land turbines in town, would generate, on average, enough power to meet 100 percent of the town’s electricity needs, according to James Manwell, director of the Renewable Energy Research Lab at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.
The offshore turbines’ blades would have diameters of 295 to 417 feet. Each turbine would generate 12 to 20 megawatts of electricity, Manwell said. The blades on the existing turbines are 267 feet in diameter, he said.
John MacLeod, operations manager for the Hull Municipal Light Board, said the town is generating revenue as well as electricity by having the two existing windmills. The town can sell “˜”˜green certificates” to electric companies seeking to meet the state-set renewable-energy requirement, MacLeod said.
Electricity from the windmills is also cheaper to generate, MacLeod said. The two existing turbines produce power for 3Â½ to 4 cents per kilowatt-hour, compared with an average of 8 cents for electricity bought from outside providers.
Before offshore turbine construction can began, studies must be performed to see if the ocean floor could support the turbines and how the construction might affect lobsters and other marine wildlife, said Carol Wasserman, the director of regulatory strategies for ESS Group, a consulting and engineering firm in Wellesley. The construction also must receive approval from state and federal agencies, Wasserman said.
Warren Leon, director of the Renewable Energy Trust at the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, said companies involved in the project are asking Hull residents to approve changing a $1.7 million grant into a forgivable loan, meaning the town would have to pay back the amount only if the project is completed.
“˜”˜We don’t know if the project will work (at Harding’s Ledge),” Leon said. “˜”˜It’s hard for a municipality to spend a lot of money on a project and not know if it will work out.”
Regardless of the hurdles, residents like Hibbard are enthusiastic about the proposal.
“˜”˜I’m really fascinated with the project,” he said. “˜”˜I absolutely love the windmills we have already.”
Although a similar project off Cape Cod, known as Cape Wind, has become bogged down in controversy amid protests from residents asserting that the windmills would ruin the natural beauty of the area, many Hull residents said Saturday that they actually enjoy the look of the land windmills in town.
One resident noted the effect that sunsets have on the windmills’ appearance. Another said she sometimes enjoys just sitting and watching the windmills operate.
Afterward, Hibbard chalked it up to a personality difference between Hull and Cape Cod residents.
“˜”˜The people on Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, it’s a different type of snobbery than in Hull,” he said. “˜”˜Most people (in Hull) think they (the turbines) are beautiful. Hull is a hip town.”
By Matt Lynch
For The Patriot Ledger
26 February 2007
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