It’s looking unlikely that the town of Hull will press ahead with a proposal to build four giant wind turbines in the waters off Nantasket Beach – a move that would have made the municipality self-sufficient in its power needs.
“We’re almost done with a financial analysis to see if we can afford to do it, and it doesn’t look good,’’ Richard Miller, manager of the town-owned light plant, said last week. “For people to pay more, just to have wind, doesn’t make sense.’’
Miller said he “wouldn’t venture to guess’’ how much the turbine project would cost individual rate payers until all the financial analysis is complete. Currently, the average electric bill in this seaside town of 11,000 people is less than $100 a month; those who pay their bill early get a 10 percent discount, he said.
Hull already has two on-shore wind turbines – one near Hull High School at the tip of the Hull peninsula and another much bigger one at the other end of town on top of an old landfill. Together, they generate about 11 percent of the town’s electricity, Miller said.
The town had hoped to put another four 400-foot-tall turbines about 1 1/2 miles offshore, near an area called Harding Ledge.
The energy would be transmitted to Hull’s distribution system through two cables six feet below the seabed and would supply all of the town’s electric needs, officials said.
The town has been working on the offshore plan for several years and submitted a formal “environmental notification form’’ to the state in December 2007, the first step in what could be a lengthy review and permitting process.
But initial cost estimates show the project would cost a minimum of $40 million-plus, and could go as high as $80 million, Miller said. While he expects the final figure will be closer to $60 million, it’s far more than anticipated, he said.
The off-shore turbines would cost far more than the land-based turbines in town. Hull 1, which started operating in 2001, cost $802,000; Hull 2, which came on line in 2006, cost $3.2 million, Miller said.
“One of the problems is you can’t bring a foreign ship in to build offshore because of the . . . federal law forbidding foreign countries from working on our shores,’’ Miller said. “So someone would have to build something’’ to do the work, adding to the cost.
In addition, the 117-year-old municipal electric company cannot take advantage of federal incentives to build turbines because the incentives involve tax rebates or write-offs and the town-owned utility does not pay taxes, Miller said.
He said the town also cannot take advantage of a $950,000 grant that US Representative William Delahunt arranged for further environmental study of the offshore turbine project because it requires a matching amount of town money, which the town doesn’t have.
Plus, the relatively small size of the project doesn’t provide the economies of scale enjoyed by a far larger project, such as the recently approved Cape Wind plan with its 130 turbines, Miller said.
He said he plans to hold an informational meeting by mid-June to “show where we are and why.’’
“You have a small percentage of people who will want it built no matter what, because it’s green,’’ he said.
“But with the cost, when it comes down to it, [the town] won’t want to do it. . . . We won’t raise the rates just to build the turbines.’’
Miller said he’s disappointed but already looking at alternatives – including the possibility of an underwater turbine at Hull Gut.
He said scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution are studying the currents there to see if it’s a good spot for the newer technology.
“It looks like a strand of DNA, very simple – like they made it in shop class,’’ Miller said of the underwater turbine design.
“But it really works. It may never come, but we’re looking at it.’’
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