A forum on wind energy provided a place to air questions about the three town meeting articles that could make wind energy part of Kingston’s future.
The forum offered the basics of wind energy and refuting claims that turbines kill hundreds of birds, are excessively loud and could never replace fossil fuels as a viable energy source.
But the points that a single turbine might kill one or two birds, are as loud as your refrigerator from three rooms away, and every kilowatt of energy produced by wind is one not produced by coal, oil, natural gas or nuclear power fell by the wayside as residents debated rumors about overlay zoning districts and the costs of actually building turbines.
The facts are, Green Energy Committee Chairman Brian Spires said, that turbines would not cost the town $10 million as one resident claimed was reported. It might be more; it might be less, depending on the cost of building materials and the number of turbines the town decides to build. The Green Energy Committee does not know because it hasn’t figured out what type and how many turbines to build at the town’s transfer station.
“This town meeting article does not ask for money,” Spires said. “It allows the Board of Selectmen to deal with the state.”
Some of the articles, Spires said, do not need to be moved. The Green Energy Committee was trying to cover its bases when it proposed them, but the committee does want to pass Article 26, which would ask the Legislature to give Kingston permission to create a municipal power company.
Spires was emphatic that these three Town Meeting articles are not asking for money, but the ability to find more grant money, place more land in the wind power overlay district, and allow the town to form a municipal power plant that would operate the turbines, similar to the water enterprise fund.
The turbines would be built with grant money and loans, which will be paid off by the generation of electricity and the sale of renewable energy certificates to the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
“The turbines would generate two sources of revenue,” a representative from MTC said. “Renewable energy and these certificates, which the town can sell and the MTC is willing to buy at a price the town negotiates.”
With all of that out of the way, there were plenty of other questions to answer, such as why turbines have three blades, which presenters Charles McClelland and Mary Knipe of UMass Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory addressed. “I’m sure engineers in the ’80s crunched the numbers and figured that three blades were best,” McClelland said.
There were questions about ice being shed from turning blades, but McClellan said modern turbines have sensors that stop the blades when they become unbalanced due to formation of ice. “The ice would just drop off and land at the base of the turbine,” he said.
There were questions about the economic feasibility of placing turbines at the transfer station. That site, McClellan said, has only moderate wind, enough for turbines certainly, but not the strong winds that Hull benefits from as that town considers building four off-shore turbines that with the two existing turbines would power the entire town.
Much of what the Green Energy Committee does will be based on the future of state Senate bill 2468, which would change the way turbine owners sell power to the electric companies such as NStar. Electricity generated at the transfer station would be metered before entering the grid and then used at the site, and what is left is metered again, and that amount can be used to power other town-owned sites. That amount would be taken off the town’s electric bill. There are other parts of this long bill that could be beneficial to Kingston as well.
Even if the bill fails, generating wind energy in Kingston would be viable, but this bill could make it a boon, Spires said.
By Casey Meserve
27 March 2008
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