HARWICH – Community wind energy is facing another setback, the town’s utilities and energy conservation commission Chairman Barry Worth told selectmen Monday night.
Three months ago, Worth reported to selectmen the town’s ability to install commercial turbines in the 400-foot range with a 1,500 kilowatt capacity is seriously limited because of the proximity to Chatham Municipal Airport.
A study conducted by Aviations Systems Inc., working with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, to assist the town to develop wind energy systems, said turbines would be restricted to 231 feet in 85 percent of the community because of Federal Aviation Administration height standards relating to Chatham Municipal Airport.
At the time, Worth questioned application of those regulations, citing the FAA standards for airports with runways 3,200 feet or longer, when the Chatham Airport has a runway of 3,000 feet.
One of the locations the study identified as initially suitable for the large turbines was North Harwich. Worth said his committee began discussions with the water department about locating a large commercial turbine there in conjunction with the department’s plans to create new well sites in North Harwich.
The commission chairman said they have now received a letter from the consulting firm stating there is no place in town where the larger commercial turbines are suitable. The town may be limited to smaller, 200 to 250 kilowatt turbines, he told selectmen.
“Because of Chatham International Airport,” Worth quipped.
Selectman Larry Cole, a former member of the utilities and energy conservation commission, said the FAA limitation relates to runways 3,200 feet and longer and this needs a better explanation. He said the next step should be to seek a ruling from the FAA.
“Can we challenge that?” Selectman Peter Piekarski asked. “We can land planes in Boston next to skyscrapers.”
Worth said that was his plan, but he recommended the inquiry be made on the town administrator’s letterhead.
The town has an anemometer tower in place on Harwich High School property and continues to collect data. Worth said the 231-foot restriction would still provide a 300 kilowatt load, enough to address the high school energy needs or possibly the needs for the community center and town hall. He also said that the size of the turbine might also be palatable to people in town.
Selectmen agreed to have the town administrator pursue a ruling from the FAA on restricting turbine size based on the length of the Chatham runway.
By William F. Galvin
12 April 2007
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