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A long road ahead for wind turbine: Study shows Sagamore Hill to be a suitable location

A small but largely enthusiastic group met in Hamilton last week for an informational meeting concerning the installation of a wind turbine on Sagamore Hill.

Sagamore Hill, part of Hanscom Air Force Base, is home to a radio observatory and Geophysics Laboratory and is also the final resting place of Masconomo, a 15th century chief of the Agawam Sagamore Native American tribe.

Two years ago, Capt. James Bono of the Air Force approached the Hamilton Board of Selectmen about installing a wind turbine on the hill and using the electricity it generated to power the base as well as town buildings.

Moe Olmsted, a former GE engineer, reported on the results of a preliminary study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Research Lab to measure the site’s viability. The study found Sagamore Hill to be a suitable location for a 220 ft., 660-kilowatt wind turbine based on statistical evidence.

A 100 ft. test tower was installed on the hill last week to gather site-specific data on wind speed and frequency. At least six months of data needs to be collected before the project can move forward. An environmental impact study will also need to be conducted in the coming months. Once those are complete, the town can apply for federal government grants or subsidies to offset the cost of the project.

Bono attended last week’s meeting, along with a cross section of local expertise. Selectman David Carey organized the meeting, which included three Hamilton residents with property abutting the suggested site for the turbine, as well as Dave Holms, retired superintendent of the base, and Beth Ganister of the Hamilton Zoning Board.

The group discussed several challenges facing the project. One will be to develop a joint ownership structure between the Air Force and the town, which has never been done before. Another will be determining the cost of installing a turbine compared with the financial gain a turbine could bring the town. That gain depends on which way local legislators vote on House bill 4373, a net metering bill currently up for debate in Beacon Hill that could allow for far higher financial returns from the turbine.

As the meeting concluded, Carey reminded everyone that the project is “still in its early stages.” Anyone interested in this project and upcoming meetings can contact him at dcarey6@comcast.net.

By Meg Flynn

Hamilton-Wenham Chronicle


11 June 2008