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Legislation clears way for two more turbines

BREWSTER – Legislation passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives on Friday and by the Senate on Saturday clears a path for Brewster to host two more wind turbines off Freeman’s Way, bringing the prospective total turbines to four.

The town has been proceeding with plans to lease land in Commerce Park to the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative so the co-op could build two turbines, each roughly 400-feet tall. Once Gov. Patrick signs the bill, the 29-acre Barrows property, on the opposite side of Route 6, could someday sprout another pair.

The two CVEC turbines in Commerce Park will produce 5.4 million-kilowatt hours of electricity annually (far in excess of Brewster’s annual use of 2.65 kwh). Brewster would receive $50,000 in annual lease fees for each turbine. It would buy the electricity generated by the turbines at lowered rates, saving about $46,717 off an annual bill of $463,250 (in 2008).

Those savings would grow over time to an estimated $491,533 annually by 2026 and the town projects it will save $4.36 million over 15 years. Two more turbines could potentially double that figure but there is no definitive proposal at present.

The Barrows land is an “additional location” with “a future capacity of up to two turbines,” explained assistant town administrator Jillian Douglass. “That would be how we currently envision that. There are no details yet.”

Brewster is a member of CVEC and that’s why it’s working with the co-op in Commerce Park. Each turbine costs about $4.4 million to set up, so Brewster is unlikely to build its own. It could put out a request for proposals and lease the Barrows land to a private developer other than CVEC, if the selectmen so choose.

The state Legislature had to act because the Barrows property was originally bought for water protection in 1997 and under Article 97 of the state Constitution (passed by referendum in 1972), land taken for conservation purposes cannot be used otherwise unless equivalent land is designated and set aside by both the town and general court.

State Rep. Cleon Turner and Senator Rob O’Leary sponsored the bill that designated the 35.83-acre Bates property, purchased by Brewster in 2009 for $1.1 million, as replacement conservation land. The bill also petitioned the Legislature to allow the disposition of Barrows land to CVEC for renewable energy.

“The land swap is part of the final legislation,” explained Elysse Magnotto, a legislative aide to Turner. “All the legislation said is that the town has to re-designate a different piece of land as Article 97 land.”

The Bates property is pine-oak woodland on the southwestern side of town near the Harwich border. It abuts the 875-acre Punkhorn Parklands and Seymour Pond.

The 29-acre Barrows property, which borders the old soccer camp, is opposite the well fields on Freeman’s Way, and near the athletic field and the Route 6 overpass. In actuality two turbines would occupy less than four acres of the Barrows land.

“A greater amount of land has been set aside with permanent restrictions from development,” noted Douglass.

“This legislation, which designates property that is currently under the control of the selectmen for construction of wind energy turbines, has been in the town of Brewster’s interest for quite some time and we look forward to taking this project to the next step,” said Charles Sumner, Brewster town administrator, in a statement.

The town meeting in October 2009 transferred the Barrows property from the water department to the selectmen.