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Wind turbine proposed for Great Blue Hill

The town could soon have a new landmark, if Sen. Brian Joyce’s proposal to install a wind turbine on top of Great Blue Hill succeeds.

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs will examine the possiblity. A $10,000 feasibility study is in the preliminary stages.

“Some of the early indications are somewhat positive,” says Joyce about the prospects. “Certainly the quest is on for alternative and clean sources of energy.”

Sally Wright of the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Research Lab says all turbine-generated energy would get fed into the local grid, not to specific locations. She says it is a contractual decision that determines who receives the benefits of the energy sabings.

Wright says the savings could be divided between the Trailside Museum, the Blue Hills Weather Observatory, the town or other parties.

“I want to make sure that if Big Blue is going to be used that Milton should get the lion’s share of the proceeds,” says Selectman John Shields.

Great Blue Hill, the highest point on the coastal plain from New Hampshire to Florida at 635 feet is the site of the second highest wind gust ever recorded – 186 mile per hour – during a hurricane in 1938.

The second highest peak in the Blue Hills Reservation, Chickatawbut Hill, is also a possibility for a wind turbine.

Steve Olanoff, of the Friends of the Blue Hills, says the group is not taking a stand on the proposal yet but has a number of concerns about a turbine’s effect on data collection at the weather observatory, birds, bats and insects, and the aesthetics of the reservation.

“The question is what is the purpose of the reservation?” says Olanoff. “It’s a place to be in nature and to get away from man-made things, and here we have a very obvious man-made thing. As important as renewable energy is, we need to decide if this is an appropriate place.”

Wright says the turbine could be between 241 and 420 feet high, comparable to the two turbines in Hull. The WGBH tower on Great Blue Hill is 150 feet high.

A wind turbine proposal would need town approval, since the reservation is within the town’s borders. Planning Director Bill Clark says it would need a special permit like any structure over 35 feet tall.

“Even though this is for the public benefit, I still anticipate there could be some pushback,” says Selectman Shields. “You don’t know what could happen. Look at the Cape Wind project.”

Selectmen are researching wind power, as well, and the board has already discussed using turbines to power municipal buildings. A committee to study the initiative will be appointed soon.

Shields suggests the former town dump site off Randolph Avenue as one other possible location. The School Committee discussed installing a turbine at the high school on Gile Road last year.

Wendy Fox, Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation spokesperson, says the department – which runs the reservation – will wait until the study is complete before it considers Joyce’s proposal.

Chris Keeley of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, says a year’s worth of wind data is often needed. The MTC manages the state’s renewable energy trust fund that is paying for the study.

By Nate Leskovic
Times staff

Milton Times

20 September 2007