The Bourne Recreation Authority, Massachusetts Maritime Academy and Army Corps of Engineers are considering forming a partnership to fund and construct a wind turbine off Taylor’s Point in Buzzards Bay.
The alternative-energy facility would be placed in the water beyond the bow of the MMA training ship Enterprise, about 100 feet from the academy dock.
The turbine in non-navigable water remains a concept at this point, but if a construction project evolves the facility would be larger than the Mass. Maritime Academy campus turbine near Hendy Field on the west side of Taylor’s Point.
Through the state/federal/local partnership MMA seeks more ways to reduce its energy expenses. The authority would similarly like to lower its annual $300,000 energy costs, the second highest expense after personnel.
And the Corps eyes ways to save money and deal with budget impacts still being felt by the Hurricane Katrina havoc in Louisiana. A turbine at the head of the point would help the Corps lower its canal-operations expenses.
Representatives of the three agencies met recently to explore the feasibility of an alliance. They include MMA President Richard Gurnon, Corps canal manager Frank Fedele and both recreation authority chairman Greg Folino and general manager Barry Johnson.
“We’re all very interested in seeing if there is some way we can all become part of an alliance to make this idea work,” Folino said. “Saving energy is a major concern, and we all use a great deal of energy. But we have to determine legalities involved in a federal, state, local partnership.
“Everything falls to feasibility and legality right now,” Folino said. “The Corps obviously has to talk with its headquarters and discuss legal aspects. But at this point if a turbine was placed in the water, the amount of state agency review might be reduced beyond Coastal Zone Management and the Corps regulatory process.”
Adm.l Gurnon and his administrative team are enthusiastic, having learned what works and what does not when securing regulatory permits for the turbine now operating on the campus but not to capacity as first projected.
Folino said there is also a matter of legislation on Beacon Hill that would amend net-metering aspects of alternative-energy flow. He said it makes little sense to produce alternative energy and sell it at a wholesale rate to the regional electric grid and be forced to buy it back at a retail rate.
Fedele will discuss the turbine possibility with the Corps legal division and determine if the project is feasible. The Corps might also have to amend its lease agreement by which the authority uses federal land along the canal.
Under the terms of its U.S. lease, the authority must spend its net revenue at Scenic Park and the Gallo rink. This provision, Folino says, might have to be revised.
There is no timeframe for the Army Corps’ review of legal issues, but Folino said Gurnon at MMA had agreed “to take the lead on this and try to make it work.”
Folino says MMA has considered the advantages of wind turbines and the disadvantages while pursuing other alternative energy methods; from thermal panels on dorms to the possibility of placing a hydro-electric facility off the MMA pier and away from the canal.
“At this point, everything’s on the table,” Folino said. “Everyone seems to think it’s a good idea; a concept that has some points to be reviewed before we proceed further. Can a state-federal partnership, including the authority as a local agency, be created and deal with funding issues? We want to find out. Adm. Gurnon has contacts from the previous turbine project.”
A second turbine along the Buzzards Bay/Cohasset Narrows approach would dominate the Taylor’s Point shoreline and provide Sias Point residents across the water with another view.
A turbine at MMA might also give cover to Massachusetts lawmakers who have come out against the controversial Cape Wind turbine complex proposed for Nantucket Sound and show that they do indeed support alternative-energy initiatives when proposed for what they would label reasonable locations.
The operating turbine at MMA is the first wind turbine constructed on state-owned land.
By Paul Gately
27 March 2008
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