MATTAPOISETT – A sonic device atop the Mattapoisett landfill will measure wind speed and direction in the town’s continuing effort to develop clean energy.
“It made natural sense to put it there,” said Selectman Jordan Collyer. “In addition to determining whether there is sufficient wind to make the site viable for a turbine, it will also help to develop a more complete and accurate picture of wind in the SouthCoast.”
The trailer-mounted device is known as a Sonic Detection and Ranging system, according to Nils Bolgen, a program manager with the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
“It sends an acoustic signal aloft and measures the return signal,” he said. “It can go up to 150 meters, around 400 feet. That’s a real advantage over the (meteorology) towers we have used which are only 40-50 meters high.”
The sound waves measure the wind profile by emitting an acoustic pulse. “It sounds like a chirp,” Mr. Bolgen said.
The equipment was installed by the Renewable energy Research Laboratory at UMass Amherst and will remain in place for several months. The data collected will be correlated with that already obtained from two other sites in town.
A Met tower formerly stood at the Nasketucket Bay state reservation which borders the Fairhaven line. Another tower alongside the Old Rochester Regional High School is still in place.
Selectman Ray Andrews said that he has long advocated placing a turbine at the landfill.
“It’s a mile from the nearest house, and it’s only a mile to connect it to the three-phase on North Street,” he said. “When the landfill was open they had to put a layer of dirt down every day to stop trash blowing around because it was always so windy. They capped it at 120 feet above sea-level so if you erect a 240 foot tower up there you’re in the stratosphere.”
While the Mattapoisett Board of Health has agreed in principle to allow the installation, Health Agent Dale S. Barrows has cautioned that the SODAR may become a target for vandals who frequent the landfill, particularly on Sundays. A number of wooded trails, used by dirt bikes and ATV’s, criss-cross the property.
“They may have a problem with that. We have vandalism up there on a regular basis,” Mr. Barrows said. “They chain the boulders around the landfill to their four-wheelers and yank them out of the way to gain access to the hill. Then they go up there and tear the turf up. They light the methane vents on fire and blow the caps off and it melts the pipe. They’ll wreck stuff just for the sake of it, and if it has anything usable on it, they’ll steal it.”
Protecting such sensitive equipment might prove a challenge, he said.
“They said they would put a chain link fence around it, but they can’t bore into the top of that landfill. They also have to plug it in and it’s more than 400 feet to the nearest outlet.”
Mr. Andrews noted that Hull already has a wind turbine operating on top of its landfill.
“It’s been permitted because it’s a capped landfill. You can’t bore into a lined landfill so there is no way to anchor turbines on those. With a capped landfill it’s OK because there’s no liner and you can seal the entry points.”
Mattapoisett town administrator Michael J. Botelho said that the town will insure the equipment.
“It has a replacement value of $35,000,” he said, “so we will certainly take measures to protect it.”
While wind-powered turbines have proven successful in some locations, the test sites in this town have not yielded the results proponents of the turbines had hoped to see.
The critical component for creating successful land-based turbines is height, according to Mr. Bolgen.
“The solution may be to use 100-meter towers in isolated locations. Putting this SODAR in place will help us to answer that question.”
By Don Cuddy
Standard-Times staff writer
17 December 2007
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