With Bay State ocean-based wind energy projects languishing and demand for renewable energy climbing, a top energy official said Wednesday, April 2, that land-based wind development is both an opportunity and a challenge for Massachusetts.
Swampscott has investigated the possibility of placing wind turbines in town, most recently through efforts of the Renewable Energy Committee..
New England wind energy industry leaders said the land-based wind industry is robust and capable of producing 9,500 megawatts of wind power. Land-based community projects are on the rise in New England, despite stalled high-profile projects like Cape Wind, said industry officials.
Wind energy generation in Massachusetts is currently estimated at 5 megawatts and accounts for a sliver of electricity generation capacity by sources like coal and natural gas, which account for 8,450 megawatts in Massachusetts.
“We’re never going to see turbines on every street corner,” said Phil Giudice, commissioner of the Massachusetts Division of Energy Resources.
Industry experts tempered their optimism by listing challenges, including permitting stumbling blocks, equipment scarcity and expanding the energy transmission grid to connect to new turbine generators.
Guidice told the News Service that land-based wind represents a good economic development opportunity but its adoption wouldn’t be widespread. He called the state’s wind project rate of success “disappointing” and said other states like Texas, Maine and New Hampshire have more windy locales.
The division is developing “specific goals” for wind and other renewable energy sources, including biomass, he said. He plans to release the goals once a clean energy bill under development in the Legislature emerges from conference committee.
By the end of 2007, Massachusetts had 5 megawatts of installed wind capacity, compared to 42 megawatts in Maine and 4,356 megawatts in Texas, according to a February 2008 National Renewable Energy Laboratory report.
As of December 2007, the bulk of electricity capacity in Massachusetts comes from natural gas, at 44 percent or 5,720 megawatts, according to the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Other sources include oil at 21 percent, or 2,730 megawatts; coal at 13 percent, or 1,690 megawatts; and nuclear at 5 percent or 650 megawatts.
New England could potentially generate up to 9,426 megawatts of wind energy, with close to half generated in Maine, according to a Maine’s Governor’s Task Force on Wind Power Development.
Maine may be the region’s home state to wind energy because officials there want to speed wind development with expedited permitting for two-thirds of the state, said Robert Grace, president of Sustainable Energy Advantage LLC, who spoke with industry leaders and state officials who gathered in Copley Square on Wednesday morning.
Grace lauded recent approvals for a 132-megawatt project in Maine called Kibby Wind, a 15-megawatt project in the Berkshires and community wind projects like Holy Name High School in Worcester and at Gloucester-based Varian Semiconductor. Meanwhile, a 3.3 megawatt project to install two land-based wind turbines in Orleans recently died when the town’s Water Board struck down the project and a 54- to 90-megawatt project in Maine died after a rezoning approval was denied due to its proximity to the Appalachian Trail, he said.
Grace said the demand for renewable energy is on the rise because of increasing renewable portfolio standards and regional greenhouse gas emissions goals.
Audra Parker, director of strategic planning at the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, called land-based wind projects “better alternatives” than off-shore wind. Asked if the alliance supports land-based wind projects, Parker said the group supports many Cape Wind alternatives – including deep-water, off-shore wind and land-based wind – on a case-by-case basis.
“Any project needs to be looked and evaluated by what are the environmental impacts and what is the level of support from the affected community,” said Parker.
By Catherine Williams / State House News Service
3 April 2008
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