Residents of Scituate are getting wind of plans to implement renewable energy in town.
A “Wind 101” forum Monday at Scituate High School updated residents on the pros and cons of wind energy and what it could potentially hold in store for the community.
Members of Scituate’s Renewable Energy, consisting of residents Jay Silva, Bill Limbacher and Myron Boluch and Selectman Paul Reidy, have been researching the town’s options for implementing wind energy as a potential cost-saving measure since 2005. The committee is in the second phase of study with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which awarded the town a $65,000 grant this summer to further study the potential for a turbine at the site of the wastewater treatment plant off the Driftway.
Reidy said Monday that the treatment plant was selected as the potential site from a field of 10 sites thought to be able to support a wind turbine. He said the plant carries the greatest energy load, and as such would be the best site for a turbine.
Sally Wright, an engineer with the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, led residents through a discussion of how wind energy works and the potential benefits and risks. She said as plans and research regarding implementing a turbine move forward, residents should get their hands around the necessary information sooner rather than later.
“You all have a decision coming up as to whether or not you want a wind turbine,” Wright said. “The goal tonight is to help you base your decision on realistic information, not rumors.”
Wright said the impacts of energy, both good and bad, impact many facets of people’s lives, including health, the economy, the environment and climate. She said without better management and conservation of fossil fuels and energy resources, global warming will continue to be an issue both here in America and other countries worldwide.
“Energy conservation is something we’re really bad at, and we always have been,” she said. “But I think it’s an issue people are beginning to realize that we can no longer ignore.”
Wright said studies indicate that about 4 percent of businesses and households in Massachusetts are projected to be “green,” or powered through alternative energy sources, by the year 2009.
In Scituate, Wright said a turbine could range in size from 160 to 328 meters tall with blades 75 to 160 meters long and a 10- to 15-foot diameter. Turbines of this size, such as two in nearby Hull, Wright said, could generate anywhere from 660 kilowatts to two milliwatts per hour.
Information presented at the meeting showed that turbines in Hull can generate energy with wind speeds up to 50 mph before cutting out. Similar-size turbines being considered in Scituate, Wright said, generate anywhere from 20 to 40 percent of their potential capacity per year.
Wright said wind energy offsets emissions from various fossil fuels such as coal, oil and other energy sources. She said in Hull, turbines have helped reduce the use of sulfur dioxide by 5,300 pounds and carbon dioxide emissions by 1,100 tons since their implementation.
“Some of you might be wondering if this is worth the bother,” Wright said. “Yes. It’s worth the bother.”
Communities earn money from wind energy through federal tax credits, renewable energy credits and rates set through power purchase agreements. The amount of money earned each year, Wright said, depends on the amount of wind energy produced. What earnings are left after repaying annual maintenance and operations debts for running the turbine are returned to the town. Wright said how the town goes about funding and maintaining the turbine is decision to be made by the renewable energy committee.
With the benefits come potential problems, Wright said. One issue that has been raised by residents in other communities hosting turbines has been birds, which have occasionally been killed after being caught in turbine blades. Wright said an average of two to three birds are killed per year through turbine-related accidents, but stressed that the number is far lower than those killed by motor vehicles and other means.
“We’ve found that the impacts to birds with turbines are lower than with cars,” she said.
According to Wright, other issues such as visibility, noise and effects on property values don’t regularly prove to be issues with turbines if managed properly. She said there has been no evidence of impacts on property values to sites abutting turbines, while issues of noise can be avoided if turbines are set far enough away from neighboring homes.
Renewable energy committee member Jay Silva has had his own 10-foot turbine on the roof of his home since 2005. He said he saves about $100 annually in energy costs through the turbine, but stressed that the importance of wind energy goes beyond simple dollars and cents.
“The idea of having renewable power was very important to our family,” Silva said. “We wanted to reduce our carbon footprint.”
Silva said he saw the solid turnout from residents Monday as further evidence that introducing a plan for renewable energy in Scituate is a worthwhile endeavor. He said the committee hopes to hash out a plan for implementing a turbine in time for this year’s annual Town Meeting in March.
“I think there’s a lot of support for what we’re doing,” he said. “People seem to understand the importance of it, so hopefully it will prove to be a worthwhile venture.”
By Ryan Bray
GateHouse News Service
20 September 2007
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