FITCHBURG— Shaving $55,000 from the city’s Water Department costs while reducing greenhouse gases is an exciting prospect for city officials.
That’s why they hope to receive a Community Wind Collaborative grant to begin the process of harnessing wind power for the filtration plant.
The plant, near the Lovell Reservoir at 1200 Rindge Road, uses more than 100,000 kilowatt hours of energy per year.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public agency that is working with several municipalities on renewable energy projects, is reviewing the application and expects to have an answer about the project in a few weeks.
“Federal law allows you to have a wind turbine on site that you can use for a specific purpose. If you make more energy than you need, you can feed it back into the grid,” said David J. Streb, planning coordinator. “The economics of it are fantastic.”
The project is in addition to the Planning Board’s efforts to draft an ordinance that would open the way for wind turbines in other areas of the city.
“People have to realize the projects don’t go up overnight. They have been taking up to five years to complete,” Chris Clark, a representative from the state collaborative, said yesterday.
After a community is accepted for the wind initiative, the group does a site survey. Locations must have wind speeds of at least 13.4 mph annual average to qualify, Mr. Clark said.
Then the group will analyze the technical and financial aspects of the project. Typically, a test tower is set up at this point. The tower is usually about 131 to 164 feet high, whereas a wind turbine can be up to 400 feet high.
“Then it’s up to the towns. We provide factual information up front. Towns decide what’s best for them,” Mr. Clark said.
On July 11, an engineer from the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst was given a mixed reception by a packed room of interested Fitchburg residents.
The engineer barely got through her 80-slide presentation on the nuts and bolts of wind power because of the barrage of questions from those skeptical of wind turbines’ impact on the environment and residential neighborhoods.
Particularly vocal was Robert Hertel, whose father owns land off Caswell Road, where in 2004 a Townsend-based developer tried to put a 120-foot wind-testing tower. Zoning laws blocked tower plans in that area.
Mr. Streb said the information session allowed officials to hear the concerns of residents – including noise, ice formation and bird deaths – while also opening up the idea that the city could qualify for a small wind turbine through the Massachusetts Energy Collaborative.
“The information allayed a lot of (residents’) fears,” Mr. Streb said about the meeting.
John W. Bizzotto, water systems manager, said he helped select the city-owned land for the wind-test site because of its remoteness from residential neighborhoods.
“I think it’s an important start to looking at alternative energy,” Mr. Bizzotto said. He added that, as a resident, he hopes the project works out.
Mayor Dan H. Mylott said last week he supported testing the wind power for use at the water plant.
“That’s as far as my support goes,” he said. “There is no other plan to look at anything else.”
Mr. Streb is optimistic about the possibilities.
“We can help prevent the burning of fossil fuels; it’s a green thing to do for the city,” Mr. Streb said. “I hope we are able to do it.”
By M. Elizabeth Roman
Telegram & Gazette Staff
31 July 2007
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