Quincy is taking the first steps to address the growing possibility of wind power turbines built within city limits, following the announcement by a local construction company that it plans to build a wind turbine on its own property and use the energy itself.
The City Council has begun a public hearing on the issues that should be addressed by a wind power ordinance, and a generic place-holder law introduced by councilor Daniel Raymondi to begin the deliberations.
Raymondi has also held community meetings since marine contractor Jay Cashman, whose construction company also wants to build a massive offshore wind power project on Buzzards Bay, made public his intention to also erect a wind turbine on land he owns at the Fore River Shipyard. The shipyard is in Raymondi’s district.
The wind turbine proposed for the shipyard would be 386 feet tall and generate 1,500 kilowatts, about as much power as that produced by Hull’s first windmill.
Without a rule on the books governing its construction, the company initially said it had the right to build the wind turbine without much say by the city. That heightened the city’s immediate interest in crafting an ordinance creating a permit process and addressing issues such as height, setbacks from property lines, noise, and view interruption. Some communities, such as Plymouth, have written separate regulations for small private turbines and large commercial projects.
While the City Council researches and writes its ordinance, a temporary freeze is placed on construction of wind turbines. City officials said they expect to have an ordinance on the books by the end of the year.
Since the introduction of a place-holder ordinance by Raymondi, Cashman officials have said the company wants to work with the city on framing regulations. The council is scheduled to take up the issue again tomorrow night.
Some city officials say fashioning a bylaw is not enough. City Council president Doug Gutro said he has asked the city administration to express interest in hosting a wind turbine proposed by Massachusetts Energy Consumers Alliance, a nonprofit company that supplies “green” power to customers.
“We need to put our hat in the ring,” Gutro said.
Mass Energy, with a $400,000 grant in hand, is looking for a coastal town to place its first wind power generator. Executive director Larry Chretien announced the project two months ago, and while his company has received letters of interest from a number of communities, Quincy is not yet one of them. He, too, is hoping that Quincy will ask to be considered.
Chretien, a Quincy resident and a former city councilor, said residents’ comments at the city’s hearing on an ordinance show there’s a public hunger for a project that, unlike the turbine proposed by Cashman, would benefit residents directly. A wind-power generator owned by a nonprofit could make an agreement to supply the city as a preferred customer, he said.
Even though his company is not a municipal light company like Hull Light, it can sell energy produced by its turbine “directly” to a municipality, Chretien said, “if the turbine is hooked up to a large user like a school.” For-profit companies are required to sell to the power grid.
Mass Energy received its $400,000 grant from the natural gas company Excelerate Energy, which is building a liquefied natural gas port in Massachusetts Bay. It has agreed to pay $4 million in mitigation money – from which the grant was drawn.
The administration of Mayor William Phelan says that before wind power development moves ahead, the city needs to wait for the results of a year-long feasibility study and have a citywide discussion of the issues.
While the time is right for a city ordinance, said Dave Murphy, the city’s chief of operations, it’s not yet time to encourage large-scale development of wind power because the city doesn’t have a site. The city has been measuring wind speed at the police station on Sea Street, and at a privately owned radio tower inland at Quarry Hills, to assess the feasibility for sites, Murphy said.
He expects to have the results next month, and will then meet with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative – the state agency promoting sustainable energy – to see if Quincy has “the science here” for wind power, he said.
The Phelan administration “strongly supports renewable energy as long as it’s in harmony with the surrounding community,” Murphy said. Though the city has had preliminary contacts with Mass Energy on hosting a turbine, he said, “without a site, it’s premature.”
But it’s not too soon for a regulatory ordinance, he said. Given advancing technology, he said, “in residential areas all of sudden you could put up a 40-foot rooftop wind turbine that powers your second floor. But what does that mean for your neighbors?”
By Robert Knox
14 October 2007
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