September 2, 2010

Bog wind power debate goes around and around

Robert Slager, The Wareham Observer, 2 September 2010

The proponents of a plan to construct eight 328-foot wind turbines on five separate cranberry bogs in Wareham made their pitch to the Board of Selectmen on Tuesday.

The Bog Wind Power Cooperative Project received mixed reviews from the board, with some members exited about the project and others skeptical. The proposal is a partnership between local cranberry bog owners in Wareham and representatives of Beaufort Windpower LLC. of Boston.

During a power-point presentation Tuesday night representatives of the company said the eight turbines would generate enough electricity to power 6,000 homes in Wareham. The turbines are expected to generate 20 megawatts, according to the company.

That power will not be free to Wareham residents, however. The bog owners who will lease land to the company will receive only 1 percent of the total energy generated by the turbines. The company plans to sell the remaining 99 percent on the open market. As the town has an existing contract with another power company the town itself will not be the beneficiary of that energy.

Two of the turbines will be located at Park Mills Bog off Charge Pond Road. Three will be situated on Barker Bogs, also off Charge Pond Road. There will be two near at Eagle Holt Bog off Blackmore Pond Road and one at Lower Bangs Bog south of Route 25.

While the turbines measure 328 feet, the tip of the blades will extend to 492 feet. That’s twice as tall as the wind turbine currently in use at Mass Maritime Academy.

Representatives of the company pitched the project as benefiting the environment by providing clear, efficient, green energy to residents of Massachusetts.

“We think Wareham would leapfrog Hull and become the greenest community,” said Jamie Faye.

Selectman Cara Winslow responded by saying “It’s exciting to think we could be the leader in something.”

Selectmen Brenda Eckstrom asked if the turbines would have any electrical benefit to the town.

“We would like to offer electricity to the town,” Faye said before noting that such a deal would be unlikely as long as the town is under contract with another energy supplier and the cost of fossil fuels remains low.

The company said the town will receive other financial benefits, however. They claim the town will receive $200,000 in permitting fees, although it’s unclear how that number can be determined as this would be the first commercial turbine erected in Wareham. The company also claimed the town would receive $300,000 in property taxes, primarily based on the value of the equipment. There was no mention of how quickly that equipment would depreciate, however.

Faye said one of the benefits of working with cranberry owners is that bogs already have access roads that would cut down on construction costs. Also placing the turbines on bogs would keep the structures away from residential neighborhoods for the most part.

Faye said one of the reasons the turbines needs to be so large is because Wareham doesn’t generate as much wind sheer as other locations such as Cape Cod and Mass Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay.

“Wareham can play an important role in Massachusetts becoming a green state,” Faye said. “Every wind turbine can work in harmony with the community.”

Selectmen have no approval authority over the project as it would be located on private property and there is no bylaw on the books to prevent such a proposal. But despite media reports that there is little opposition to the plan, neighborhood groups from Charge Pond Road and Blackmore Pond Road have formed to oppose the proposal.

“Bog wind energy is a scam,” said Blackmore Pond Road resident Barry Cosgrove. “Do a Google search on the Internet. This isn’t about the environment. This is about making a profit off the back of a community.”

Cosgrove said he would elaborate when his neighborhood group is ready to make a formal presentation.

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