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Wind speed testing tower sought by local company

AUBURN— The Zoning Board of Appeals will hold a hearing Thursday night on constructing a 164-foot-high tower at the Worcester Envelope Co. to determine whether a wind turbine is feasible there.

The company is seeking to build a temporary tower that would gather information on wind speed and direction, according to the application for a special permit. The hearing is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. in the selectmen’s meeting room in Town Hall.

“This is the preliminary step to assessing the feasibility of a wind turbine to produce low cost, renewable, pollution free electricity for Worcester Envelope,” the application stated.

Boreal Renewable Energy Development filed the application on behalf of Worcester Envelope. Boreal’s principal, Thomas Michelman, referred questions on the tower to Worcester Envelope.

The tower would be placed on a grassy, open area in front of Worcester Envelope’s warehouse, according to company owner Eldon D. Pond Jr.

The application asks permission for the tower to be up for as long as 25 months in order to ensure the collection of data for all months. Mr. Pond, however, said he had been told that enough information is likely to be gathered in six to 12 months.

Research has indicated that an average wind speed of 5.5 miles an hour is needed to make it feasible to put up a wind turbine, Mr. Pond said. He also said that grants may be available to help pay for construction.

If the test tower shows there would be enough wind, the company would purchase a 1.5 megawatt wind turbine that would cost between $3 million and $4 million, Mr. Pond said. That structure would be about 380 feet tall and it would be in the middle of Worcester Envelope’s 7.3 acres at 24 Millbury St., Mr. Pond said.

A wind turbine of that capability would enable the company to generate enough power to save between 30 percent and 35 percent of its yearly energy cost of about $1 million, Mr. Pond said.

At that rate, the payback time would be about 10 years, Mr. Pond said.

Company officials at Worcester Envelope, which employs about 220 people, have been thinking about putting a wind turbine on the property for about 10 to 12 years, Mr. Pond said.

The decision was made to move ahead because recent improvements in technology have made it economically feasible, he added.

“We’ve been trying to green ourselves just like everybody else,” he said, while adding company officials want to preserve and protect the environment as much as possible while cutting down on energy costs.

“We feel it’s part of being a good corporate citizen,” Mr. Pond said.

By Bill Fortier
Telegram & Gazette Staff

Worcester Telegram & Gazette

14 April 2008