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School aims higher with turbine

BOURNE – A green giant could soon join the little green sprout at Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School.

On Wednesday night, the school committee directed Supt. Kevin Farr to begin exploring potential financing to build a 600-kilowatt to 1.25-megawatt wind turbine at the school. It would include a tower three times the size of the one that already exists on campus.

The school board heard details of a study by engineers that Upper Cape Tech’s elevated location near the Cape Cod Canal makes it a prime spot for a commercial-size wind turbine. A large turbine could generate enough electricity to power the entire school, Farr said.

The total cost of the project is between $1.8 million and $2.2 million. Engineers estimated it would pay for itself in eight to 10 years, he said.

Wind data, electricity consumption, economics and environmental concerns were all part of the $70,000 feasibility study by Weston & Sampson, a Peabody-based engineering firm. The grant was paid for in part by a Massachusetts Technology Collaborative grant.

The turbine would be on the scale of the one erected by Massachusetts Maritime Academy across the Bourne Bridge. The approximately 250-foot tower would join the 80-foot, 10-kilowatt wind turbine already spinning in the wind at Upper Cape Tech.

The smaller turbine generates about $300 in electric savings each month for the high school, but is almost as valuable as an educational tool, Farr said.

The much larger turbine would wipe out the $160,000 per year the school pays for electricity, Penny Blackwell, chairwoman of the Upper Cape school board, said yesterday.

Upper Cape has made other strides in using alternative energy sources such as solar and biodiesel, she said. “We should be teaching our young people to be as green as we can.”

Because the school’s energy consumption drops for eight to 10 weeks over the summer, a commercial turbine could generate revenue for the school, Farr said, by selling electricity back to the power grid.

Upper Cape is in talks with the Bourne Recreation Authority, which operates Gallo Ice Arena and Bourne Scenic Campground, to provide electricity to those operations, said Gregory Folino, chairman of the authority.

Folino is also talking to officials at Mass Maritime, where he works as an athletic trainer, and the Army Corps of Engineers about possible wind partnerships.

The authority spends $300,000 to $350,000 per year on electricity, he said. It’s the second- highest cost at the rink. Meanwhile, demands at the campground are soaring as newer RVs include plasma TVs and other high-tech toys, he said.

“We’ll listen to any and all takers and look for a partnership rather than trying to do our own,” Folino said.

The feasibility study generated plenty of enthusiasm; now officials just have to figure out how to pay for the turbine.

Both Farr and Blackwell acknowledge it’s not the best time to ask the school district’s five member towns to provide funding for the project, so the superintendent will be seeking alternate sources.

By George Brennan
Staff Writer

Cape Cod Times

11 April 2008