ROCKPORT – An ordinance drafted by the town would allow the building of electricity-generating wind turbines in town, if it gets voter approval in June.
The proposal is prompted by the work of students aiming to put up such a turbine at Camden Hills Regional High School.
Some of those students were present at the ordinance review committee’s informational meeting on proposed ordinance changes, Thursday night, March 29, at the town office. If approved, the ordinance would allow the zoning board of appeals and the planning board to decide if a turbine could be placed at the high school.
Chairman Richard Remsen started the review by noting that, when writing the ordinance, the committee only allowed these so-called “small wind energy systems” in the 908 Rural District. This would be a problem for the school’s Wind Planners, because the high school is in a different zone.
After debating the wording and also whether to mention a maximum acreage, the committee decided to change the wording to allow small wind energy systems in 908 Rural and at schools on 10 acres or more of land.
The proposed ordinance also limits the height of such turbine towers to 100 feet. However, Keith Rose, the facilities director for the high school who has worked with the students on this project, said that the type of machine the students are considering might be 120 to 140 feet tall.
Town Planner Tom Ford noted that the pair of residential turbine towers near his home in Hope are between 60 and 70 feet. The committee compromised by allowing a maximum height of 140 feet for school turbine towers, while keeping the 100 foot limit for all others.
Rose said the temporary tower at the high school, used only to monitor wind speed, is about 130 feet tall.
“See, I don’t even notice it,” said committee member Will Gartley.
“I didn’t even know there was one,” committee member Lyle Bailey added.
Ford thanked the students and Rose for coming, and complimented the students on their interests in alternative energy. “I think we should applaud them for their efforts,” he said.
One of the students, Marika Shyduroff, said that “As a resident of Rockport, I don’t have a problem with being able to see a wind tower on school property, because it shows the school is thinking about sustainability and about the future.”
The Wind Planners, as the students call themselves, have been working several years on their plan to put up an electricity-generating wind turbine at the high school. In 2005 they got approval from the school board to put a temporary wind-speed monitoring tower on the grounds.
After getting approval from the town of Rockport as well, on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2006, engineers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst erected the town behind the high school, after gaining town zoning board approval.
The tower is owned by the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory of the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. This lab, which looks at alternate energy sources such as wind, receives money from the U.S. Department of Energy.
UMass has provided the group with support for this project, and the town of Rockport is even considering re-writing its ordinances to encourage this sort of project in the future.
On March 14, junior Megan Aydelott of Camden and senior Dylan Chapman of Rockport presented the findings of a year’s worth of test data to the Five Town Community School District board.
Chapman told the board, after Aydelott distributed the analysis of wind data, that “The results are marginal, but they do have potential.”
He pointed out that wind speeds appear fastest during the hours when students are in school and electricity is being used the most.
They are scaling back their plans a bit, due to the marginal wind speeds, and so are considering a turbine that generates 10 or 50 kilowatts, rather than the larger 100 kilowatt turbine originally envisioned.
Bill Hopwood of Camden, who has been helping the students with their work, said a 10 kilowatt turbine costs about $55,000, while the 50 kilowatt model costs $200,000.
“The students are going to be raising this money themselves,” he pointed out.
The board voted unanimously to give its blessing for the students to continue on with their work.
By Steve Rzasa
5 April 2007
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