Not only is the answer blowin’ in the wind, there’s savings, too.
NStar electric bills might be a nightmare to figure out, said many at Monday night’s selectmen’s meeting. And the laws around electricity production are confusing and the jargon mind numbing. But everyone understood that wind energy helps a town go green in more ways than one.
“The short term benefits is that it can cut a town’s energy bill by 50 percent,” said Maggie Downey, assistant county administrator who spoke about the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative.
Everyone in the Judge Welsh room perked up after hearing that.
Provincetown could become the newest member of the cooperative if town meeting approves.
The Electric Cooperative formed in September 2007 and its initial members include Barnstable County, the town of Barnstable and Cape Light Compact. Its mission is to develop renewable energy projects on the Cape and Martha’s Vineyard.
The towns in the cooperative would work together to build wind turbines throughout the region. The cooperative, with the help of Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, would finance and own the turbines and sell energy back to the towns. The towns that erect wind turbines would be paid a leasing fee by the cooperative for the right to use the land. The cooperative would also help to stabilize energy costs, said Downey.
“We thought this was a good way to realize this without costing the towns huge amounts of money,” said Downey.
Under Massachusetts laws, cities and towns may no longer form municipal energy companies, but this type of cooperative, the first of its kind in the commonwealth, is permitted. With towns working together, wind turbines become cheaper and the risk associated with going into the energy business becomes lower, said Downey.
The town’s recycling and renewable energy committee placed an article on the annual town meeting warrant asking voters to approve joining the cooperative, which does not require any financial commitment.
“This is a no-brainer,” said committee member Amy Germain.
The committee placed a wind turbine questionnaire with this year’s town census forms, which are mailed to every household in town. About 30 percent responded and of that percentage about 90 percent favored placing wind turbines in town, with 5 percent saying no and another 5 percent saying they were unsure. Of those that said yes, the top locations in town to place the turbines were at the transfer station, the wastewater treatment plant and at the town’s schools.
“There is tremendous support for wind energy in Provincetown,” said Michael Leger, chairman of the committee.
Selectmen agree. With the environmental benefits obvious, selectmen focused on the economics of the proposal. Downey said that under current law it would take some time before the wind turbines could reduce the average person’s energy bill. However, upon installation, it could cut the town’s municipal bill in half. Last year, Provincetown’s electric bill was well over $300,000, said finance director Alix Heilala.
Before the wind turbines can be installed, a variety of tests need to be conducted putting actual installation a few years away, said Germain. But studies done by Massachusetts Technology Collaborative show the Cape and Islands provide some of the best locations for wind energy on the East Coast.
A large wind turbine project planned for Nantucket Sound up Cape is still in the regulatory approval process.
By Steve Desroches
27 March 2008
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