FAIRHAVEN – The ongoing discussion of wind turbines drew a full house to the March 26 Board of Selectmen meeting.
Two consultants went before the board to provide information, and the attendees asked a number of questions and voiced various opinions. Also, it was stated that the selectmen are trying to put together a meeting with Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) and their scientists for some day next week to continue the discussion.
Selectman Michael Silvia started the wind turbine discussion by reassuring the residents that no wind power proposal had been finalized yet.
“It is not, (and has) never been the intention of (selectman Ron) Manzone, myself, or this board to put any articles on the special town meeting, for the town meeting coming up in May, regarding wind power. We are still very much in the information gathering phase. We respect the concerns of everyone whether they’re for or against wind power,” stated Mr. Silvia. “I am always open to any idea that will lessen the impact of the economic impact on the rate fairs and the tax payers of this town, although I think in my many years as selectman I am not going to foist a project onto this town that this town does not want.”
Mr. Silvia stated there was no deadline for finalizing a project, and he didn’t know when the board would be ready to put an article before town meeting. He did, however, stress it would be a town meeting vote.
Mr. Manzone also noted that he was still sifting through the information to decide on what he is willing to support.
“I haven’t made up my mind yet if this is the way to go. But what we have to find as selectmen and town officials, we need other revenue sources so we can make this town affordable for our seniors and our young families trying to start out,” said Mr. Manzone, who mentioned that other communities are on fact finding missions about wind power while adding that the financial aspect of the turbines was something to consider. “We respect the beauty of this community, but, like I say, we need to find revenue sources.” Mr. Mazone emphasized that people should study the facts and keep an open mind. He also stated that the town will make the decision as a group.
The two consultants who went before the board were George Aronson, a principal of CommonWealth Resource Management Corporation, and Barry Sheingold of New Energy Opportunities. Both are working for the town and discussed issues relating to developer CCI Energy’s wind turbine proposal. Mr. Silvia explained later in the meeting that the selectmen had asked the developer to come up with money for the town to hire an independent expert. He also said the two consultants are financed from money from the MTC.
They started by talking about the developer’s finance plan for the installation of turbines. In the plan, MTC would be providing wind turbines. It was stated that the MTC has Vesta turbines, and Mr. Aronson said that Vesta can support installation and maintenance of turbines in the area. Mr. Aronson also stated that MTC hasn’t made a final commitment to Fairhaven or anywhere else regarding who will receive the turbines. The consultants felt that, provided the MTC makes a commitment to the town and the equity investor goes forward, the finance plan is adequate.
The consultants also discussed how the electricity would be sold. Mr. Sheingold stated that the developer is proposing to serve the waste treatment plant in a direct sale. Both consultants were comfortable with this plan.
They also spoke about total benefits to the town. Mr. Aronson, acknowledging that there is a lot of uncertainty at the outset, stated the estimate is $150,000 per year in 2009 and escalating up to the base proposal. He also said it may go as low as $125,000 or $130,000 and stated that $175,000 is possible. Mr. Sheingold stated that the minimum for lease payment and property tax would be $100,000 per year. It would therefore be $100,000 minimum plus savings.
In answering Mr. Silvia’s question about whether the type of turbine is appropriate, the consultants explained that the two 1.65 megawatt turbines are not the largest that could be fit on the property but are available under the circumstances and the commercial proposal is based on these turbines from MTC. It was also explained that 80 to 90 percent of the electricity would be sold to a third-party.
The consultants answered a number of questions from residents. In answer to one attendee, they stated that the developers would incur maintenance and building costs. When asked by another resident what would happen if the project was uncompleted, the consultants described that a decommissioning fund would be used for removal. They felt that this situation would be unlikely since most of the project costs are up front. Also, as demand for turbines exceed supply, they could be sold. They also covered inquiries concerning revenue, maintenance, and other related issues. There were some questions which the selectmen stated would be better answered by MTC and their scientists next week.
There were varied opinions among the meeting attendees regarding the installation of wind turbines, with some people having serious reservations and others offering strong support. One attendee stated, “I really believe in this project,” and encouraged the selectman to consider putting it on the special town meeting in the fall. Another attendee commented, “I’m a little ambivalent about wind power,” and went on to voice concerns about the location of the turbines, visual pollution, and lost property values. At the end of the meeting, Mr. Manzone encouraged people with thoughts or concerns to put them down in writing or call.
In other business during the meeting, Marc Jodoin went before the board with the FY 08 EMA budget and Jeanne Reedy presented the FY 08 Assessor’s budget.
By Adam Sylvia
27 March 2007
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