Salem wants to help lead the way when it comes to tapping the power of the wind.
The city is working with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public agency that invests in renewable energy projects and companies across the state, to pursue the goal of locating one or more electricity-generating wind turbines on municipal sites in Salem.
As a first step, the collaborative recently agreed to provide Salem with a preliminary analysis of eight potential sites for wind turbines identified by the city’s Renewable Energy Task Force.
Today, representatives of the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, which is undertaking the analysis, will be in Salem to meet with the task force and visit the sites.
The survey, which is being done at no cost to the city, should be completed within 45 days.
“I am thrilled,” said Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll, who appointed the task force in March to explore renewable energy opportunities for Salem. “We really feel this is the direction we should be heading in.”
Driscoll noted other “green” initiatives Salem has already put in place, including the purchase this year of a hybrid vehicle for the Fire Department and six solar-powered trash compactors for parks and downtown areas. The city is also planning to install a 2-kilowatt solar array at the high school.
“Particularly since we do host a coal-fired plant,” Driscoll said, “it’s even more important for us to be concentrating on ways we can help the environment.”
Interest in wind power is picking up across the state, with the controversial 420-megawatt Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound just the most notable of a number of sizable projects proposed or in place.
Others include a 1.5-megawatt facility to be dedicated next month at the Jiminy Peak Mountain Resort in the Berkshires; a 100-kilowatt turbine installed in 2005 on the South Boston site of the Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers; and a 660-kilowatt facility installed by the Massachusetts Maritime Academy at its Buzzards Bay site in April, according to Emily Dahl, a spokeswoman for the collaborative.
Among municipalities, Hull installed a 660-kilowatt turbine in 2001 and a 1.8 megawatt facility last year, and is proposing four additional turbines off shore. About 30 communities in all are working with the collaborative on wind projects.
Among local communities, Lynn is exploring the possibility of a turbine at its regional waste-water treatment facility.
There have also been smaller-scale wind projects. One of them is a plan by Groom Energy Solutions to install a 1.8-kilowatt turbine at its new Swampscott Road site in Salem.
The project, which recently received approvals from city boards, will allow the firm to meet some of its electricity needs, but also to demonstrate to its commercial customers the use of wind power technology, according to the company’s CEO, Jon Guerster.
Salem is interested in turbines that produce up to 1 megawatt of electricity, or enough to power 1,000 homes, said Rob DeRosier, vice chairman of the task force.
The eight sites being surveyed are Salem High School; Salem Willows Park; Winter Island; Forest River Park; the South Essex Sewerage District property on Fort Avenue; the Saltonstall School; the Olde Salem Greens Golf Course; and the Bentley School.
“We would all be tremendously proud of Salem if we could make this happen when a lot of other cities and towns have had so much trouble getting these things done,” DeRosier said.
The survey will identify whether the sites are good candidates for wind projects.
The city could then apply to the collaborative to have a more in-depth feasibility study done on the best site or sites, said Chris Clark, senior project manager for a program at the collaborative that helps cities and towns evaluate wind energy options on municipal sites. The study would include recording wind speeds for a year.
DeRosier said the Bertram Field and sewerage district sites may be the leading candidates for further study because they best meet the criteria of being somewhat removed from homes and offering the potential of making onsite use of any power generated. He said the alternative to using power onsite is to sell it to the regional power grid, which would not yield as much of an economic benefit.
Since the South Essex district site may not strictly qualify as a municipal one, Clark said, if it is identified as a good candidate for a turbine, his agency would determine whether its community program or some other collaborative program would be the appropriate one to study it further. DeRosier said the city plans to seek the support of the sewerage district for placing a turbine on its property.
DeRosier said if the city decides to go forward with a turbine project, it would hire a private firm to install it. Among the questions a feasibility study would explore is whether the city or some other entity would end up owning the turbine project.
After the feasibility study, Salem could seek $150,000 from the collaborative to pay for legal and other costs associated with developing a turbine project To obtain guaranteed income from the turbine, the city could also apply to have the collaborative purchase renewable energy certificates that the agency could auction to firms selling electricity.
DeRosier said many challenges still lie ahead before a turbine project gets built – including addressing potential concerns residents might raise about noise and other impacts.
But he said the project is worth pursuing.
“We all hear about global warming,” he said. “We hear about pollution. We know that renewable energy should be the way of the future. That’s what’s driving this.”
By John Laidler, Globe Correspondent
19 July 2007
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