May 22, 2008

Windmill location changed

A status report on the Princeton Municipal Light Department’s special use permit for Stagecoach Trail raised questions about the wind farm upgrade at the April 30 Wachusett Mountain Advisory Council meeting.

In response to council Chairman Tom Sullivan’s question about the permit’s status, state reservation Supervisor Dwayne Ericson said PMLD has a permit to use the road to access its wind farm site off Westminster Road. “Nothing is happening at the site and the new turbines aren’t expected to be installed until 2009,” he said.

“Is anyone monitoring the erosion from their site to the state reservation land?” asked Sullivan.

“We check it regularly,” said Ericson.

Donna Brownell, president of Watchdogs for an Environmentally Safe Town, presented council members with photographs of the PMLD site that showed areas of crushed rock.

“In December there was a lot of blasting during a snowstorm,” she said.

“Then all of a sudden the area was all covered over with crushed rock. Now a new area has been blasted about 150 feet from Stagecoach Trail. That means the elevation of the wind tower will be 100- feet higher,” Brownell said. “We don’t know what that new area is for, a generator or a building. It needs to be clarified why it was blasted and then covered up.”

If the turbine is going to be in a different area and closer to Stagecoach Trail and higher, the avian study may be different, said Brownell. She added that the new height renders photo simulations of the windmills obsolete.

Contacted after the meeting, PMLD general manager Jonathan Fitch said one of the turbine locations has been moved because the turbine manufacturer wanted a foundation design that was based on better quality ledge.

“The original site would require a riprapping retaining wall and we’d have to put a 14-foot concrete cylinder (pile) on top of the foundation, then the tower on top of that,” said Fitch.

“The ledge in the new location is better quality and we won’t need any riprap retaining wall. The difference in the height elevation is only 36 feet, so photo simulations won’t be affected. A 36-foot elevation change is insignificant given the scale of the entire turbine.”

The new location is about 265 feet from Stagecoach Trail, which is further away from reservation land than the northern tower location, said Fitch.

He said the PMLD wants to get the foundations in this summer and then wait for the turbines, which are expected to arrive in the spring of 2009. The rock anchors for the foundations and the transformers have arrived, he added.

Eight, 50-foot rock anchors will be installed under each concrete tower foundation, connecting the ledge to the foundation. A series of 25-foot anchors also will be installed under the foundations.

“A lot is going to happen in the next month or so,” said Fitch.

By Phyllis Booth

The Landmark

15 May 2008

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