Several Moretown residents joined members of the Moretown Energy Group (MEG) Monday evening, July 12, for a presentation made by Citizens Wind representative Randy Male about the potential for a large-scale wind farm along the Northfield Ridge in Moretown.
Citizens Wind is a for-profit subsidiary of the larger nonprofit Citizens Energy of Massachusetts. Male made a similar presentation to members of the Waitsfield Planning Commission on May 18.
Select board member David Van Deusen approached Citizens Wind regarding the feasibility of a wind farm on the ridge after requesting fellow town officials’ support in his ongoing research of potential alternative energy initiatives. MEG chair Karen Horn invited Male to give his presentation at the July 12 meeting.
The 90-minute presentation was peppered with questions and concerns raised by residents regarding acoustic impact, building access roads, tower height, energy production and sales.
According to Male, the ridge could support between 15 and 24 1.5-megawatt turbines capable of generating 350 to 450 homes. Turbines are 400 to 500 feet high with a rotor diameter of 240 to 350 feet. The blades are white, as per the requirement of the FAA; the FAA also requires lighting for air traffic.
Male told residents that Citizens Wind has yet to draft a project proposal for the Northfield Ridge but said he feels “70 percent confident that there is a good project up there.”
Before a project proposal is presented, Citizens would need to complete a desktop wind analysis followed by an independent wind assessment through the installation of MET towers that collect and transmit data to record a year’s worth of wind/energy potential.
Male said he believes “there is wind up there” but would need to establish, using data collected over a yearlong period, whether the site is appropriate for a large-scale wind farm.
When asked specific questions regarding tower height, spacing, number of towers, turbulent wind and power capacity, Male said the variables were all very “site specific” and wouldn’t be known until the studies are completed.
@SUBHEAD = THREE PHASES
Following the assessments, the three phases include development, construction and operation. Citizens Wind handles the development phase, which includes the installation of MET towers, and determining whether the existing power lines close to the ridge have the capacity to support more energy.
Male said that the ridge appears to have wind, the site seems to be “constructable” and the wind resources have been mapped to determine where the wind exists.
In addition, the preliminary desktop work includes a preliminary acoustic study. Residents questioned the distance one would have to be from a tower spinning at full capacity in order to not hear the turbine.
Male estimated that two people could have a conversation within three feet of a wind turbine producing 110 decibels of noise. Waitsfield Planning Commission member Ted Tremper compared the 110-decibel output of a wind turbine to a running circular saw.
“Would you be able to have a conversation standing three feet from a circular saw? I don’t think that’s normal,” he said.
Male said that the assessment studies will address the specific concerns and that all the variables are too site specific to determine at the current stage.
When asked about the foreseen decommissioning costs of such a project, Male told residents that the banks require a decommissioning reserve fund. The project would require a service access road that will be built and maintained by Citizens and not used for recreational travel of any kind.
“There’s no project proposed yet. We’re at the stage where we’ve done our desktop work; now we’re ready for our consultants to do more desk work to determine if there is commercially viable wind,” Male said.
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