NEWBURY – The town’s Alternative Energy Source Committee is hoping to catch the wind – or at least enough of it to save the town a little money.
The three-member panel will apply to a program called the Community Wind Collaborative that would provide a meteorological test tower to measure the wind at a town-owned, 51/2-acre lot on Plum Island.
The group wants to find out if there is enough of a breeze to operate a wind turbine to generate electricity that could be sold back to the region’s power grid, energy committee Chairman Gene Smith said.
A turbine could be either built and operated by the town or the site could be leased to a company, which in turn would build and run the wind power device. The company would make lease payments or sell electricity to the town at a discount, or both.
The Community Wind Collaborative is one of several programs operated by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which is funded by a renewable energy charge on electric bills from investor-owned utilities, such as National Grid. The charge is 5 cents per 100 kilowatt hours of electricity used. Customers of municipal electric utilities do not pay the charge.
Energy committee member Ron Barrett said the skyrocketing cost of energy generated by fossil fuels makes experiments such as a wind turbine essential.
“I think our times are changing,” Barrett said. “With gas at $3 a gallon and SUVs with $400-a-month gas bills, we’ve really got to do something.”
Barrett said the site of the proposed test tower is at the end of Southern Boulevard near the border of the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge.
Chris Clark, senior project manager at Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, said Community Wind is not a grant program. Instead, he said, the collaborative provides services and technical assistance to communities.
He said the agency does a preliminary assessment of a site’s potential after receiving an initial application from a city or town.
Part of the assessment is an estimate of the wind potential based on computer modeling, Clark said. If a site can reasonably be expected to have wind speeds of 14.5 mph at a height of 70 meters, or 231 feet, the community may proceed to the next step, a full-scale feasibility study.
Clark said a test tower would be installed at the selected location and left in place for a year while the actual wind speeds are monitored. After the readings are taken, he said, a technical consultant would analyze the energy production and develop a financial analysis.
Clark said applications are accepted on a “rolling” basis, which means there are no fixed deadlines for submissions. Applications are considered whenever they are received.
While exploring the feasibility of wind power is the latest initiative by the Alternative Energy Source Committee, it is not the only one. The committee identified municipal buildings that were candidates for solar power and is attempting to get funding to install solar panels on the roof of Town Hall.
By Victor Tine
22 August 2007
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