Residents will decide this spring whether Ipswich becomes the first municipality in the region to harness the wind as an energy source.
At the School Committee meeting Thursday, proponents will present details of a $3 million-plus wind turbine project that would supply the town and its schools with electricity.
“I see this as a tremendous opportunity for the town and schools to really collaborate and cooperate on a common concern – that is energy usage and our reliance on fossil fuels – and what a great way to begin to reduce that reliance,” said Rick Korb, superintendent of schools and a member of the subcommittee working on the turbine project. “It will also be a great educational tool for the kids of Ipswich and the community. It’s really what I like to call a win-wind.”
Pending approval from the School Committee and Board of Selectmen, residents will vote on the proposal at Town Meeting in May. The turbine would be built on Town Farm Road and stand approximately 300 feet high.
Several communities and school districts have discussed wind turbine projects, including Beverly, Essex, Hamilton, Lynn, Manchester-by-the-Sea, Rowley, and the Pentucket Regional School District, which includes Groveland, Merrimac, and West Newbury. Among private entities, Varian, a semiconductor manufacturer in Gloucester, has received permission to build two turbines, and Mark Richey Woodworking in Newburyport is evaluating the possibilities, according to Don Bowen, a consultant on the Ipswich project.
The Ipswich turbine would be funded in part by a $1.6 million no-interest loan awarded to the schools through the federal Clean Renewable Energy Bonds program. The School Department received the news that it is eligible for a loan to finance a smaller schools-only turbine project earlier this year, and Korb began a discussion about combining the school project with a town proposal.
Korb said he anticipates the turbine will produce the majority of energy needed for the high school-middle school building. In a typical year, energy costs at the town’s four school buildings run from $350,000 to $400,000, he said.
Jim Engel, a member of the committee that will make the presentation to the School Committee, said that while the savings for the schools will be substantial because of the low-interest loan, he does not expect significant savings on the municipal side. What it will do, he said, is address the the town’s mission to reduce reliance on fossil fuel.
If approved, the project will join a list of energy initiatives that have made Ipswich arguably the “greenest” municipality in the region, as illustrated by a growing recycling program, the schools’ districtwide five-year capital improvement/energy-conservation plan, and the purchase of hybrid vehicles for municipal use.
“There is an opportunity here to exhibit community leadership, in taking a stance to reduce consumption of oil, and to look at noncarbon-related means of generating renewable energy,” said Bowen, a principal with the engineering firm Meridian Associates Inc. of Beverly.
Thursday’s meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the high school-middle school on High Street.
By David Rattigan
2 March 2008
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