The winds of change may be blowing through town over the next year – and not just figuratively.
Town officials next week will consider whether to take a closer look at installing one or more windmills on town-owned property as a way to generate power and save on the town’s electrical costs.
Municipal electrical power rates have just about doubled in the past three years, according to Town Manager Roger Raymond, and it appears that those costs will continue to increase under a new contract for the standard offer.
“We’ve got to do something to help ourselves out,” he said.
The town first began to look at wind power about a year ago, and town councilors agreed to hire a consultant to work with them on the issue. Raymond said Thursday that the consultant has provided two proposals for wind turbines for the town to consider. At next week’s council meeting, he plans to recommend the council establish a committee that would include interested residents to study the issue.
There are two proposals, he said. The first would involve a small, 33-foot wind generator that could be installed at a town facility, such as the treatment plant, the town garage or the transfer station, and produce power to offset the costs of operations at those sites. The cost to purchase and set up the turbine would be about $12,000 to $14,000 with an eight-year payback at current electrical rates.
The second proposal would be for a much larger generator, Raymond said. That would include installation of a 120-foot generator capable of producing three-phase power and between 78,000 and 100,000 kilowatt hours per year. Possible sites for the larger unit include town-owned property near the new middle school or at the industrial park.
Raymond said he had not yet figured the payback schedule for the larger unit, but indicated that the projected energy savings from using the larger unit could be around $12,000 annually.
While the smaller unit should not create any problems, Raymond said, the town will have to look at the operation of both generators carefully to ensure they would not create problems for residents near the sites that are ultimately chosen. Noise might be an issue, he said, adding that committee members likely would want to visit a site where a similar unit was in use. The committee also will have to consider the visual impact of the generator, he said.
“We need to be sensitive to our neighbors; we need to be good neighbors,” he said. “We don’t want this to be a problem for us or for anybody else. This needs to be very well thought out.”
That is one of the reasons to involve community members in the discussion of the proposals, Raymond said. There was a lot of interest from the public when councilors first discussed the possibility of wind power last year, he said.
“It would be good to involve them in this issue,” he said.
If the council considers a site near the middle school, the discussions also would include the school committee as well, he said.
Despite the need for a close review of the proposals, if councilors agree to move forward with a project, Raymond said, a smaller unit could be up and running by this fall.
The town has conducted wind studies at the treatment plant for a number of years which have shown that the winds are most active in the fall, spring and winter and are slowest in the summer months.
“We’d like to have it installed to take advantage of the most aggressive wind times up there,” he said.
By Rich Hewitt
7 December 2007
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