With a major wind farm in the works for Nantucket Sound, and as the town looks into ocean-based sites off Tuckernuck and elsewhere near the island, the Energy Study Committee is taking more of a landlubber’s approach to wind power.
The committee has submitted an application to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to have a “Municipal Wind Turbine Site Study” to assess the potential for generating wind power on government-owned land.
The committee submitted a list of 10 sites – including the landfill, three sites in the Smooth Hummocks, the old Navy base property in Tom Nevers, the wastewater treatment plant, two sites near Massasiot Bridge and the Federal Aviation owned property in Madaket – to be studied for potential use.
“We don’t want to alarm people,” said energy commission vice-chair Barbara Gookin. “Just because we’re looking at a site, doesn’t mean we are going to build a turbine there.”
Gookin also said the application to the MTC was a very early step in a lengthy process that will include many stops along the way for the public to give its input.
Once the MTC accepts the application for an assessment, which Gookin said they have received word that they will, a team from the University of Massachusetts’ Renewable Energy Research Lab will visit Nantucket by this summer to gather data on each site.
The research team will determine if the site is viable, taking into account information such as endangered species, soil types, proximity to residences and the airport, if the location is near a heavy power using facility – such as the landfill or the wastewater treatment plant – and a host of other items.
Wind data will be used from past studies, including a recently completed one from the landfill, to check each sites potential for generating electricity.
Once the researchers collect the data, each site will be analyzed and, most likely, the list will be winnowed down from 10.
Following the site visit, the RERL will issue a report within 45 days. “We certainly don’t think that each site will be developed,” said Gookin.
Once the sites are chosen, the options and outcomes for each are wide reaching.The town could decide to build a turbine that only provides power to the landfill or the wastewater treatment plant, or build one that would sell power back to the grid. This could save, and potentially make, the town money through lower power bills.
The town could also lease or hand over control of the land and the turbines to a private developer with the intent of having the arrangement directly benefit Nantucket residences and the town, said Gookin. “Right now we want to keep all of our options open,” she said.
Gookin gave a presentation to the Board of Selectmen last Wednesday and the board voted to endorse the application.
While Gookin said it is too early to say what kind or how many turbines could be built, at the selectmen’s meeting she did say it was possible they could be similar to the one recently approved for Bartlett’s Farm.
Bartlett’s Farm plans to install a Wind Energy Solution 30, a 250-kilowatt turbine, which has a blade diameter of 30 meters and can produce electricity with only a moderate breeze. The turbine can sit atop a pole of 30, 36 or 50 meters, according to the company’s Web site. Also according to the company, the turbines have a 20-year lifespan and depending on the wind speed, can pay for themselves in as little as three and a half years.
By Peter A. Sutters Jr.
20 February 2008
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