ASHBURNHAM – Stan Herriott, manager of the Ashburnham Municipal Light Plant, announced he has signed a memorandum of understanding with a private, renewable energy company to build a wind turbine in northern Ashburnham.
The Municipal Light Company’s Board of Commissioners and Solaya Energy, of Woburn, signed an agreement to explore building a wind turbine project on Blood Hill, located off Byfield Road.
“Basically, they’re going to come back to us within 60 days with a plan,” said Herriott on Friday afternoon. “We have to come to terms on how much we are going to pay for the electricity generated from the turbine.”
Solaya Energy, the company responsible for the wind turbine project at Mount Wachusett, plans to build two turbines on Blood Hill. While nothing is set in stone, the wind turbines will be approximately 250 feet high with three 135-foot-long blades that weigh six tons each, said Herriott.
A wind turbine, which looks like a giant pinwheel, converts kinetic energy from wind into mechanical energy, which is then converted into electricity.
Recent analysis from the UMass Amherst Wind Energy Center boded well for a wind project on Blood Hill, noted Herriott. The center used a 165-foot, pole-like metal tower to study the wind speeds on the hill for almost 18 months.
“The tests came out very favorable,” he said. “It’s a very good location for a project like this. … Also, the hill is approximately 2,000 feet from its closest road, so it’s in a very remote location.”
With some initial plans to do the project through the Municipal Light Plant, Herriott noted the advantages of purchasing the electrical output through a private company.
“We won’t have to borrow a whole bunch of money to do the project now, we don’t have to worry about maintaining the wind turbines and we take the liability risk away,” he said. “At the same time, we are still bringing renewable energy into the area.”
Selectmen Chairman Ed Vitone said he’s excited about the project’s potential.
“One of the things this town is blessed with is a lot of hills and a lot of wind,” said Vitone “We thought wind power might be a good business for Ashburnham. … We don’t want these wind turbines to be the first and only, but the first of many.”
Herriott noted the cost to purchase the outgoing electricity from the turbines will be in the upcoming agreement.
“We use about 34 million kilowatts per a year, so this project tied in with our solar panel project will hopefully cut a portion of those kilowatts used,” he said.
The beneficiaries of a $150,000 Energy Efficient and Conservation Block Grant this spring, the town’s Municipal Light Department installed 70 solar panels at both the Oakmont Regional High School and the Public Safety Building this month.
“This is the thing of the future,” Herriott said. “There will be savings with this. However, the more important thing is, we can take and fix our cost of electricity for the next 25 years. Fossil fuels will increase in the future, along with other costs of electricity.”
Moving forward, The Municipal Light Company’s Board of Directors and Solaya Energy will need to come to a price agreement, and the project will still need to go through a site plan review and receive a special permit. The town does have a wind generation bylaw.
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