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Turbine rebate could be carried away  

Westport – The town’s chances for a rebate from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative for its proposed wind turbine may not be as good as they were last fall.

An MTC program director said Tuesday the agency has had “active discussions” regarding its review process of small wind turbines after a consultant found estimates of their energy potential to be too optimistic.

The MTC must approve a rebate for the wind turbine proposed for behind Town Hall in order for the turbine to be built. A rebate would pay $45,000 of the project’s $63,400 cost.

The Board of Selectmen approved a contract Monday to build the turbine, but contractor Steve Pitney of Alternate Energy, who did not attend the meeting, still needs to add his signature. A building permit is also needed before the MTC will review the application.

James Christo, the MTC program director of green buildings and infrastructure, said the quasi-public agency may make changes to its review process for small turbines. Turbines must pass a minimum production requirement based on a model that factors in wind speed, turbine height, and surrounding terrain, including trees and buildings.

To be eligible for the rebate, a 10-kilowatt turbine like the one proposed in Westport must be projected to produce 8,760 kilowatt-hours per year of electricity, Christo said. One estimate found the turbine would produce 732 kilowatt-hours monthly, or 8,784 annually. The contract stipulates the contractor will pay the difference in lost energy if the turbine does not produce 600 kilowatt hours of electricity a month.

A report of 19 MTC-funded small wind turbines by environmental consultant The Cadmus Group said “installers almost universally overestimate annual energy production. Often this overestimation is quite significant.”

Even a small error in calculating wind speed “can result in a very significant impact on energy production,” the report said. In this area and on Cape Cod, the overestimation can be 10 to 20 percent, and “on currently installed systems, rebate dollars paid by MTC have not generated the expected benefits,” according to the report.

The report also found that turbines by Oklahoma-based supplier Bergey Windpower – which would include the Westport turbine – have “surprisingly low” performance. On average, the Bergey 10-kilowatt turbine “is producing only about one-third of its predicted energy output.”

The MTC review process takes three to four weeks on average, Christo said. Ninety percent of the rebate would be paid to the town when the turbine is up and running, and the remaining 10 percent would be paid after one year. The contract says the turbine should be completed by Feb. 1.

Pitney said Tuesday he plans to sign the contract. “I’m hoping it’ll get done,” he said, adding that he plans to build the tower so solar panels could be added later.

There may still be one wrinkle to be straightened out. Pitney said the town will have to cover a $2,500 increase in materials announced by Bergey in March.

The Alternative Energy Committee has been raising money in memory of late member Robert Kowalczyk to cover cost increases, but a proper account must be set up for the town to accept the money.

By Grant Welker
Herald News Staff Reporter

The Herald News

21 May 2008

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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