ORLEANS – The town will not be a leader in building municipal wind turbines in Massachusetts.
By a 3-1 vote yesterday afternoon, water commissioners recommended against putting two 397-foot turbines on towers in the town’s watershed off Route 28.
Now the two turbines, which have been sitting in Houston, Texas, waiting for Orleans officials to approve the project, are up for grabs to Falmouth, Fairhaven and other communities that really want them, said a disappointed Diedre Matthews, director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s clean energy program. Matthews was in Orleans yesterday for the town’s scheduled review of the project’s final legal documents.
The unexpected turn of events came after the latest legal snag in four years of research about costs, benefits, siting, leases and picking a developer to erect the turbines in town.
“Does this mean the water commissioners are against wind energy?
No,” commissioner Ann Hodgkinson told the selectmen at their meeting last night. “At this particular time, the majority of water commissioners believe this particular deal wasn’t good for the town.”
The lone supporter for the windmills was water commissioner Kevin Galligan, a local leader in working with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a state agency coordinating efforts to install wind turbines in Bay State cities and towns.
The state agency had promised the turbines, in short supply globally, to Orleans as long as the town’s project moved ahead.
Town officials had hoped to gain more than $2.5 million from the turbines over 20 years, including electricity savings and tax benefits. “The opportunity has truly passed. The door is closed and I believe this opportunity will never be presented to the town again,” Galligan told the selectmen.
Despite the years of work, the other three water commissioners questioned costs and staff time to monitor and operate the project, along with concerns over clearing acres of undisturbed watershed forest.
The selectmen accepted the commission’s vote with a mix of disappointment, appreciation for the panel’s work and relief that the project’s fate had finally been settled.
Matthews said the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative would try to find another home for the Texas turbines in the Bay State.
“We want to see these turbines spinning somewhere in Massachusetts and we want the town where they are spinning to be very happy with them,” she said.
By Susan Milton
13 September 2007
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