Imagine the view of Boston Harbor. Now imagine it dotted with 16-story windmills.
This dramatic change of the city’s landscape could happen under plans being pursued by a city councilor and Mayor Thomas Menino, who want to see wind power help fuel Boston.
“We have ample opportunity to site wind turbines on the public land or on the public water,” City Councilor Michael Ross said. “We have an opportunity to get clean energy as well as offset cost – it’s just something we can’t afford not to look at.”
Mayor Thomas Menino two years ago pushed for wind power, seeking to place turbines on Boston Harbor islands. But concerns of interference with airplane flight paths by the Federal Aviation Administration stalled that.
Menino’s fiscal 2008 budget includes money for a feasibility study on wind power specifically for municipal buildings.
Ross wants to know whether Boston can become the first major city in the country to have a full-scale wind farm. He has scheduled a hearing on the issue and wants the city to investigate all that’s needed – everything from who builds and pays for the turbines to the type and size and their location.
Wind turbines on urban rooftops, as has been pursued on a small scale in Chicago is on the table along with a waterfront presence.
But Kathy Belyeu of the American Wind Energy Association said turbines in the middle of a city are unrealistic, even on rooftops, because the noise can be too much to bear.
She said wind generated power for metropolitan areas – such as in California – is transported from less-populated areas, suggesting the waters of Boston Harbor may be the city’s only real option.
Coastal turbine farms are becoming popular, said Mark Rodgers of Energy Management Incorporated’s Cape Wind, a 130-turbine wind farm proposed for Nantucket Sound’s Horseshoe Shoal, because the power being produced is close to the people using it.
“Historically, wind power in the United States has been built in remote areas that are windy, but the big problem is transmission – how do you transport that wind power to the area it’s needed?” said Rodgers.
The $1 billion Cape Wind proposal is billed as being able to provide 75-percent of Cape Cod with energy. But the experience – one of continually battling – there suggests that wind power doesn’t always get embraced.
Powerful politicians and others contend the power generation facility is inappropriate for the area.
Vivian Li of the Boston Harbor Association gave Ross credit for exploring the idea, but warned that the concerns of Cape Wind’s impact on the natural beauty of the environment could be echoed in Boston Harbor. A farm of Cape Wind’s magnitude is unlikely for Boston Harbor.
A spokeswoman for Cape Wind’s chief opposition, said the initial capital cost of building any wind turbine should be factored into the decision-making equation of whether to pursue wind energy.
Just because “wind is a free, cheap source of energy” doesn’t mean the tools to gather it and turn it into electricity are, said Audra Parker of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound.
By Christopher Loh
12 September 2007
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