ORLEANS – Selectmen and the board of water commissioners met yesterday and decided against installing two 397-foot high wind turbines in the town’s watershed.
Water commissioners had already voted 3-1 on Sept. 12 not to recommend the project, which was aimed at offsetting the cost of pumping and treating the town’s municipal water system.
Yesterday’s joint meeting was called in an attempt to salvage the plan by addressing the commissioners’ doubts about financing the project, among other concerns. The commissioners took a straw poll and voted 3-2 against the project, and selectmen decided to stop pushing for it.
“I’d prefer to see it move forward, but I don’t believe I have all the information to do that,” Selectman Jon Fuller said.
The wind project was initiated four years ago when the town voted to appropriate $100,000 to explore using turbines in the town watershed. The town hoped to get back $2.5 million in profits during the 20-year lease period in which a contractor would build and run the $7.3 million turbines.
But water commissioners pointed out that too few of the details had been worked out for them to support it. Among their many questions were whether additional town employees would be needed, how much it would cost to get the right technical advice to evaluate bids, who was going to oversee construction, and what the town would do if the contractor defaulted on the lease and left maintenance and management to the town.
Town Administrator John Kelly countered that the project was always a water department responsibility and that the water board needed to decide what level of risk it was willing to accept. He said it would be almost impossible to determine the maximum costs to the town over a 20-year period.
“I think this project is dead because the concerns we had still remain,” commissioner Ann Hodgkinson said.
State agency faulted
While they may have disagreed over the fate of the turbines, nearly everyone, including selectmen, complained about how the town had been treated by the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
The state agency is tasked with helping municipalities overcome legal, technical and financial hurdles associated with a relatively new energy technology like wind power. But the two town boards complained about poor communication and planning by the collaborative.
Commissioner Robert Rich joined others on both boards in saying they would never work with the collaborative again because they were “unprofessional” and “unpredictable.”
Rich pointed out that the collaborative didn’t tell commissioners the turbines the town planned to purchase from them are ultimately going to be banned under a new state building code because they can’t sustain hurricane force winds.
By Doug Fraser
26 September 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding