HAMPTON -— Unitil is planning to construct a single wind turbine in town in hopes of “offsetting” the company’s energy costs, according to Senior Vice President of Customer Service and Communications George Gantz.
The proposed installation, which would sit atop the transmission poles on Unitil’s existing piece of land on Route 101, is a new venture that would help with energy costs by allowing the company to replace fossil fuels with renewable ones, Gantz added.
“The tower will displace energy that we would buy on the wholesale market,” Gantz said. “The Seacoast is an area with a potential wind resource, and we are well aware of the fact that the economics of wind equipment has been improving significantly and the technology has advanced quite a bit.”
With the new technology in hand, Gantz said, it was time to test out the wind energy process.
“We have poles at the proposed site that are used for our transmission lines, which means that we already have existing infrastructure in the area with a good wind resource,” he said. “Speaking with the manufacturer of the poles, we know that they have done lots of residential wind installations around the world, and they are quite excited to see how it goes, and we hope that it proves to be a good demonstration.”
Hampton Selectman Rick Griffin, along with the rest of the board, was briefed on the project at the Board of Selectmen’s meeting on Monday. Griffin said, for the proposal to work, the town needs to know exactly what it entails.
“I’m not opposed to the project, but the town needs to know exactly what’s going into this,” he said. “I would like to know how the town can benefit.”
Griffin also has questions on the exact location of the tower and how residents will react.
“I was on the Zoning Board when the cell phone tower issue was discussed, and I see this as even more of a possible problem,” he said. “We need to check to make sure if they are allowed to put the tower in the wetlands because these easements that Unitil has were granted years ago, so there would never be profit made on marshes.”
Gantz said, no matter what the reaction is to the project, the benefits will easily outweigh the drawbacks.
“To meet the requirements of distribution, we have to put our energy on the markets,” he said. “The cost of that energy is paid for by our customers, and this project will displace some of the energy that our own system uses, at an attractive economic cost, which is good for us and good for customers. This seems like a really good idea, and the only way to find out is to get the unit in place, see how it performs and see what the wind resource produces in terms of energy.”
Town Manager Fred Welch said that all the town can do in the meantime is to wait and see how the project goes, because, as he put it, “it’s the reality for the future.”
“The projection is that the major supply of oil will run out in 30 years; if that’s true, we need to look into different ways to get energy,” he said. “The reality of having to use wind power in the future is tough to debate, but where it is used is a different issue. It’s going to make some noise, but you can’t help that. It will be a test for us.”
By Alexander Plummer
10 August 2007
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