NORTH EASTHAM – Faced with escalating utility costs, Nauset Regional High School is considering an industrial-grade wind turbine.
“We spend over $200,000 per year for electricity,” Nauset High principal Thomas Conrad said yesterday. “As budgets put more pressure on communities and taxpayers, it was our desire to look at any options that could help.”
The project is still in its early phase, too early to be gathering public comment, Conrad said.
“We obviously want to be sensitive to everybody involved, our neighbors and the national park,” he said.
The Nauset Regional School District filed an application on Aug. 20 with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for nearly $40,000 in grant money to fund a feasibility study to assess wind and other conditions on the site.
The application calls for a 600-kilowatt turbine, although it also mentions the possibility of erecting up to a 1.5 megawatt turbine. The Massachusetts Maritime Academy is currently using a 660-kilowatt turbine, and Cape Cod Community College is also considering one of a similar size.
Massachusetts Maritime Academy’s turbine saved the school $220,000 in the past year through reduced electrical costs and money paid to the school by selling excess electricity, said Adm. Richard Gurnon the state school’s president.
Nauset will have to pay nearly $7,000 toward the feasibility study. In the application, the school district wants to evaluate owning and managing the turbine itself as well as options to finance the $1.3 million to buy and install it.
The technology collaborative may pay for $500,000 of the project.
The school district estimated that it would take between seven and nine years for the turbine to pay for itself in utility savings.
The high school’s highest electrical usage runs from December to March, the time period when researchers have found the most consistent and highest wind speeds on the Cape.
The school is not in session during the summer months when the lowest average wind speeds occur.
Two studies already favor the location, Conrad said. A wind tower at the town’s transfer station about a mile from the school has shown that wind conditions are conducive to operating a large turbine. The technology collaborative funded a preliminary study by the University of Massachusetts that ruled out any so-called “fatal flaws” that could potentially shut down the project, such as being near an airport.
Conrad said one location to be evaluated is the northeast corner of the high school site, near a ball field north of the track.
The high school is on a 72-acre lot, surrounded on three sides by the Cape Cod National Seashore and bordered by a residential neighborhood only along its western edge.
That could eliminate one of the problems encountered by the town when it proposed installing four 1.6-megawatt turbines on town-owned property but ran up against a firestorm of complaints from neighbors. Their concerns included noise from the turbine blades, adequate setbacks to protect homes in case the turbine tower or blades fell, and the aesthetics of a large structure dominating the landscape and potentially ruining its rural charm.
Eastham’s turbine project is on hold as a committee attempts to draft a zoning bylaw to govern the placement of commercial turbines. The bylaw is expected to be ready for a vote at the annual town meeting next May.
By Doug Fraser
3 October 2007
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