SOUTH DENNIS – It’s highly likely that another wind turbine project will go before the Dennis Old King’s Highway Historic District Committee in 2011.
At a joint meeting with selectmen Oct. 28, Dennis Water District Superintendent David Larkowski reviewed a yearlong wind-energy study conducted by Boreal Renewable Energy, Stearns & Wheeler GHD, Power Engineers and Saratoga Associates.
“Our goal was to determine the feasibility of a utility-scale wind turbine on water district land to decrease costs to ratepayers and for other benefits,” Larkowski said. The study also determined a turbine size that would generate enough electricity to eliminate the district’s electric bill and cover the cost of purchasing and erecting the turbine.
Town Administrator Rick White said the town is considering the option of constructing an identical turbine on the 330-acre parcel that the water district has identified for its turbine because the water district has already done the work. “We would be piggybacking on their findings and avoiding the time and expense of repeating their efforts,” White said. The means by which the town would reimburse the water district for use of its land has not been determined.
The water district and town would realize advantages in a partnership: one road would be built to access both sites; one design would need to pass OKH scrutiny; and one builder would construct both turbines.
The selected parcel abuts more than 100 acres of Brewster Conservation land, is relatively flat, and has no identified environmental issues. No wetlands would be affected. An avian study confirmed there are no threatened or endangered species on the site. Power lines already run through the site, which is about 400 feet from the Brewster town line, providing a 400-foot buffer around residential areas. The closest residence in Brewster is 1,180 feet and in Dennis, 1,740 feet from the nearest proposed turbine location.
Each turbine would have an 80-foot hub height and stand just under 400-feet at blade tip. “To eliminate our electric bills and pay the $4.1 million turbine cost, the study determined that a 1.6 MW General Electric turbine would be the most efficient, given our existing conditions,” Larkowski said.
With information gathered from Barnstable Municipal Airport and the Harwich meteorological tower that’s 1.6 miles from the site, it’s estimated that each turbine would generate 3.4 MW of electricity per year. The water district consumes 1.3 MW annually, leaving an excess of 2.1 MW that would be sold to cover the turbine costs.
Mirroring the town’s efforts to keep taxes down, the water district’s goal is to keep their customers’ water bills down.
“There are three ways to make money,” Larkowski explained. “The Green Community Act created net metering, which would provide credit against all water district electric accounts. The Act also created renewable energy credits, requiring all power companies to have these in their portfolios. We could sell our RECs on the open market and we could sell our extra power either to NSTAR, third parties or on the wholesale market.”
Selectmen and water district commissioners will continue to discuss the possibility of signing a letter of intent with the Cape & Vineyard Electric Cooperative, which works with local entities to develop wind projects. To save the $4.1 million turbine cost, they could request that CVEC evaluate the proposed project and submit an offer. CVEC is working with Brewster to build and operate two 1.9 MW turbines.
“CVEC requests up to six months to conduct its evaluation, and we would have to agree not to solicit or entertain any other offers during that time period,” Larkowski noted. CVEC leases each turbine site for $50,000 a year, builds, owns and operates the turbines and sells the electricity back to the lessee at a discounted rate.
Selectman Wayne Bergeron said CVEC is “a worthy alternative to consider.” But water commissioner Peter McDowell disagreed. “If we do it ourselves, after our bond is paid off, we own it,” McDowell said. “We may need to replace the blades and generator after 15 or 20 years, but we own the turbine forever.”
Several permitting hurdles remain to be crossed. While the GE turbine would adhere to all local requirements for large-scale wind turbine facilities, the project would require a certificate of appropriateness from the OKH committee and a Federal Aviation Administration “no hazard” determination. Should the water district partner with the town on land purchased for water-supply protection, it could disqualify them from obtaining special legislation to proceed with the project.
The two groups will schedule work sessions to decide whether to engage CVEC in a study or proceed on their own. “The sooner the better, so we can get the wheels turning,” McDowell said.
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