PROVINCETOWN – A row broke out last week over how to proceed with a proposal to build a wind turbine at the transfer station.
Some selectmen were surprised to find out the recycling and renewable energy committee had applied to the Federal Aviation Administration and the Massachusetts Aeronautics Commission for input on putting a 250-foot turbine at the transfer station.
Recycling committee members were concerned that the structure might interfere with federal and state airspace around the Provincetown Municipal Airspace.
Before proceeding with research on the potential project, the committee wanted
to know whether the transfer station was a plausible site or not, according to committee chair Michael Leger.
“This is the very, very first step. We’re not committing the town to anything,” he said.
However, board of selectmen chair Michele Couture was concerned that the recycling committee was getting ahead of the town in its interest in generating its own electricity. The committee should have asked selectmen for permission to contact the FAA and MAC, she said.
“When it comes to siting a structure in town, the selectmen need to be involved in this. We’re responsible for town property,” she said, adding, “It was disconcerting to hear [Leger] talk like their committee was this independent entity.”
“This is what I thought we were supposed to be doing,” said Leger about his committee’s due diligence efforts. “I guess not.”
Leger expressed frustration at the meeting with the selectmen’s apparent lack of understanding about the recycling committee’s efforts. After the meeting, he said, “You do something and they say, wait a minute, you have to ask our permission. I just feel they don’t include us in the loop.”
The state aeronautics commission recently gave its blessing to placing a turbine at the transfer station. The FAA has not responded yet, Leger said.
Voters approved a proposal at April Town Meeting to proceed with negotiations to join the Cape & Islands Electric Cooperative, the group that would enable the town to produce its own electricity. And a survey taken by the recycling committee earlier this year asked residents if they wanted to place wind turbines in town. Approximately 1,000 residents responded, with the overwhelming majority saying they supported wind turbines. About 75 percent of the respondents also said they would prefer that a turbine be built at the transfer station, Leger said.
Couture said the two boards are on the same page regarding wind energy but need to work more closely together. Towards that end, a meeting between the two groups was planned for sometime this summer.
In addition, the recycling committee will be invited to a meeting between selectmen and the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative that Couture is hoping to schedule for the end of the summer. The collaborative often provides grants to towns to pay for feasibility studies that determine whether winds in a specific area are strong enough to warrant investing in turbines.
The Cape Cod National Seashore is currently involved in a feasibility study with MTC, which installed a meteorological tower near Highland Light in Truro to collect wind data for a year.
By Pru Sowers
4 July 2008