HAVERHILL – The Covanta power plant between Interstate 495 and the Merrimack River burns refuse to create electricity and even harnesses methane gas from the abutting landfill to help power the city.
Its next foray into renewable energy? A big windmill.
Covanta plans to erect a 200-foot-tall weather monitoring tower to measure wind speeds on top of the former landfill, a 100-acre spread that has been capped and currently sits as open space.
The scientific weather device will help prove or disprove that a large power-generating windmill perched on the landfill would succeed. It would be the first of its kind in the area.
“If you have the wind, you can have a project,” said Ken Nydam, Covanta’s business manger.
Covanta has already installed a smaller windmill on top of its trash incinerator plant. That windmill produces a tiny amount of electricity – enough to power a few homes.
The existing windmill cost $75,000 and was erected more than a year ago as an experiment and promotional tool.
The windmill proposed for the top of the landfill would cost an estimated $2 million and could produce enough electricity to power 1,500 homes daily, Nydam said.
City Councilor Robert Scatamacchia was interested last year in bringing windmills to Haverhill, but he was discouraged when the state determined that not enough wind exists in Haverhill to qualify for state grants.
He is encouraged by Covanta’s efforts to see if a windmill will work on its landfill.
“Maybe they know something we don’t know,” Scatamacchia said of Covanta. “I’m sure they would not be wasting their money if they did not think it was profitable.”
The landfill mound is about 200 feet high and spread over about 100 acres next to the Merrimack River. It once collected the trash of Haverhill residents, Scatamacchia said.
Covanta is petitioning the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to allow it to erect the wind-testing tower. The hearing is March 19 at 7 p.m. at City Hall.
Nydam said the company will erect the tower within four weeks, if the project is approved. The top of the landfill is just open space right now.
“It would be an excellent post-closure use of that landfill,” Nydam said. “It’s clean and it’s green.”
By Jason Tait
9 March 2008
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