COHASSET – It was fair winds and smooth sailing for the wind turbine bylaw, which passed with unanimous support of Town Meeting.
Several questions were raised about possible locations for the commercial-sized wind turbines, but overall the possibility of implementing wind as an alternative energy for the town was favorably met.
“The bylaw does not guarantee placement of wind turbine, but it does give it a framework,” said Alternative Energy Committee chairman Andrew Willard. The Alternative Energy Committee, a Selectmen appointed board, has been working on the bylaw for a couple years.
The bylaw establishes town-wide zoning regulations for commercial size wind turbines – turbines greater than 500kilowatts, or about the size Hull Wind I located near Hull High School. The projects will be required to go through a special permit process overseen by the Planning Board. The bylaw creates uniform setback, noise and siting requirements.
“From a practical standpoint, wind turbines are only applicable to large parcels,” said Selectmen Chairman Gary Vanderweil. Willard enumerated just four parcels large enough and open enough to accommodate a wind turbine under the setback requirements of the bylaw: behind the Middle-High School, at the transfer station, behind Hingham Lumber (Graham Waste) and the Avalon property off Route 3A.
“Wind turbine placement offers tremendous opportunity for the town to save energy costs,” said Willard. Especially if erected near the Middle-High School all the energy generated would go directly into the school potentially saving the town thousands in energy costs each year.
“There are considerable financial benefits from wind turbine,” said Advisory Committee member Chartis Tebbetts and although concerns had been raised over noise and visual effects, “the committee feels there will be adequately addresses in the (permitting) process.”
One resident asked if the bylaw took offshore wind turbines into consideration given Hull is actively pursuing the an offshore grouping of turbines. Willard said the bylaw only regulates land turbines.
Smaller residential size wind turbines are not regulated through this bylaw, but in order to erect one a property owner would have to get approval from the zoning board of appeals.
Willard said the earliest the town would bring forth a wind turbine project would be 2009, either on the high school or transfer station property. A meteorological experimental test, or MET tower, is collecting wind data on Turkey Hill through June. All the data points to Cohasset having “excellent wind” for a turbine, said Willard.
Bill Flynn of 41 Atlantic Ave. asked under the bylaw how many wind turbines were possible. Willard explained given the setback and large open area required under the bylaw, Cohasset could at most see two town-owned wind turbines and two to four commercially owned turbines on private property.
Mark Haas of 63 Bancroft Road asked if any consideration had been taken in determining the effect of wind turbines on property values. As a resident in close proximity to the possible high school turbine location, he was concerned his property value would be lowered as a result of a turbine.
“The bylaw makes no statement about property values,” said Willard. “Studies out of Europe indicated no effects on property values from wind turbines.”
A separate zoning amendment, also passed unanimously, created wind energy conversion facilities, or wind turbines, as an allowed use in all districts subject to a special permit.
By Nancy White
3 April 2008
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