ORLEANS – If they could have voted last night, the Nauset Regional School Committee would have approved sending a proposed wind turbine project for the regional high school to town meetings this fall.
After a presentation by principal Thomas Conrad and consultant Tom Michelman emphasizing the turbine’s revenue-generating potential, an informal straw poll showed unanimous support from committee members.
“It’s such a great concept. Everything about it makes sense,” chairman Rick Wood said.
Despite the enthusiasm, Supt. Michael Gradone said state ballot deadlines made it impossible to get the project to town meetings before next spring. And Wood wanted to slow the process to make sure abutters, including the National Park Service and other concerned parties, participated.
With school budgets becoming increasingly harder to fund in tough economic times, the revenues were appealing to many. Paying back what it costs to build renewable energy projects can typically take a decade or more.
But Michelman projected that, because of favorable provisions in the state’s new energy bill, they could cut the previous projected payback time of 2½ years for the $2.7 million turbine in half.
Since the school would use only 36 percent of the electricity generated by the 900-kilowatt turbine, it could sell the remaining 64 percent.
Under the new state bill, the Nauset district could sell the excess power it generates on windy days at the retail rate of 16 cents per kilowatt hour versus the 6 cents wholesale rate it used to receive.
The state bill also mandated that electric utilities start offering increasing amounts of power generated from renewable energy sources to its customers, creating more demand for wind power.
The size, height and number of proposed turbines has not been finalized. Michelman, whose firm, Boreal Renewable Energy Development, was hired under a $50,000 study grant, said they were favoring one or two, a little larger than the one installed at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.
The tower supporting the turbine would be 65 feet taller at 229 feet and the height to blade tip would be 390 feet.
Boreal had predicted nearly $5 million in post-tax revenues over 20 years, after payback, but said that could almost double under the new bill.
Trees would block views from most of North Eastham, but the turbine would be seen from the Nauset Light Beach parking lot, from Fort Hill and by properties bordering the school athletic fields.
Gradone thought the project would be ready for town meetings next week to vote whether to authorize bonding. Extensive state permitting and federal reviews also remain.
By Doug Fraser
18 July 2008
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