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Wind talk picks up at Town Hall, schools

CLINTON – School and town officials will work together to bring wind power to town.

Following a proposal by School Committee member Virginia West in August, and a similar proposal to selectmen by local engineer Anthony Marini last month, both the schools and Town Hall are setting up study committees.

“The schools will have to wait upon the town’s word,” said West. “A joint effort between the town and school would be the best option.”

School Committee members were slated to discuss a wind power partnership Tuesday evening, after the Times & Courier’s press deadline.

Selectmen Chairman Robert Pasquale Jr. said his board recently created an Alternative Energy Commission to look into energy savings, including wind turbines that might generate electricity to power all town government needs.

“It seems like a profitable experience in the long run, although the initial investment has been the big complaint thus far,” Pasquale said.

“We have to do the whole process correctly,” said Marini, an electrical engineer. “There has been talk of defraying costs at Clinton High, and what it would take to do this.”

Clinton spends approximately $1 million a year for energy usage, Marini said. The Alternative Energy Commission’s job would be to project further costs associated with wind power.

“We would need to see how much it costs in terms of putting in foundations, grid tie-ins, and transformers. Periodic costs are also a factor, seeing how economical it would be to operate with wind power.”

Marini said the next important step will be conducting a more thorough investigation of Clinton to see what sites could work. One “wind map” suggests that despite the town’s numerous hills, only a few locations have the gusts to make wind power profitable. Marini said last week that he feels those maps may be out of date, as advances in turbine technology could accommodate lower wind speeds.

“According to the Massachusetts Energy Collaborative, we need a comprehensive study done in Clinton and we need to determine some possible sites on which to build,” said Marini.

West’s committee is looking at sites close to Clinton High School, to catch winds off the Wachusett Reservoir. Possible windmill locations include the school campus or the end of Park Street, according to West.

“I was thinking the schools are close to the water filtration systems within town,” she said. “These areas have water towers and are based on high-up areas, which I felt would be beneficial.”

According to West, Clinton had a $240,000 electric bill in 2006, with the biggest consumers being the Department of Public Works (which runs the water plant) and the school system.

“I just cringe when I see these rising costs,” said West. “I originally got the wind idea after reading an article about the Portsmouth Abbey School in Rhode Island using wind as a progressive energy source.”

School Curriculum developer Terrance Ingano and town Economic Development Director Donald Lowe are working on grants to defray the cost of building the towers. West said their grant proposal is due by February 2008.

Marini said the town energy commission will also look at other eco-friendly options, including solar energy and decreased lighting within homes.

“If we cannot get the big tamale, we will go for the small olive,” said Marini, although “I do believe wind energy will surprise some of the skeptics and will bear fruit.”

West sees wind power as a resource for the whole town, not just the School Department.

“I am hoping savings will be in the general fund for everyone,” she said. “In 10 years, the wind turbine would be paid for without grants [according to Marini]. The turbines get increasingly energy efficient.”
Pasquale is also satisfied with the path being taken.

“I am elated to look into anything helping community members to save dollars in the long run,” he said. “I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and take on any new adventure.”

According to Marini, the selectmen have recently solicited for volunteer support on the newly created commission.

Update: Ingano eyes $40K grant

At the Dec. 11 School Committee meeting, grant writer Terrance Ingano further discussed the possibility of obtaining a wind power grant within town.

“There is an initial $2-3 million investment for a recommended quality wind turbine,” said Ingano. “This investment figures to be paid back and profit made after a 10-year period. The decision to initiate wind power could end up saving the town approximately $300,000 a year, later down the line. This additional money can aid other town resources as needed.”

Ingano and school officials are still trying to find the appropriate wind turbine location. Once a site is identified, the schools can apply for a $40,000 grant to look into the technical and economic logistics of the project. Applications are due by Feb. 21, 2008, to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, which is part of the state’s Renewable Energy Trust Fund.

By Jason Crotty/Correspondent

The Times & Courier

13 December 2007