DARTMOUTH – The public gave a mostly positive response on Wednesday to the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth’s plan to build a 243-foot wind turbine, but a few also expressed concerns about the turbine’s location.
The turbine would be built in the middle of a clearing between Cedar Dell Pond and the center of campus – a vista that architect Paul Rudolph envisioned as “a visual anchor” for the campus, according to a book chronicling the university’s history. The proposed location – which appeared to be definite – caused the most reaction at the public meeting.
That vista “should not be violated,” said professor emeritus Fred Gifun, who wrote the book on the university. Building a turbine the middle of the clearing could also hurt the chances of the campus’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places, he said, something that a group of supporters has been pushing for.
Salvatore Filardi, the university’s associate vice chancellor for administrative services, said the university is “trying to enhance the architecture, not be handcuffed by it.” The university is “sensitive” to Rudolph’s vision for the vista, he said, but it feels that the turbine wouldn’t be “a big distraction.”
“That’s too bad,” Gifun responded. “That’s terrible.”
The university recently began clearing years of growth to open up the 100-yard-wide vista to the pond once again. A wide clearing from the center of campus to the pond was emphasized in early schematic drawings for the campus. Restoring Rudolph’s concept was included in the university’s Campus on Facilities Master Plan in 2005.
Ron DiPippo, the former associate dean of engineering at UMass Dartmouth, suggested moving the turbine slightly to the north in a forested area where it wouldn’t be as noticeable. “I’m surprised at how people are digging in their heels at this tentative location.”
Plans for the turbine might be too far along to change the location.
Moving the location would require resubmitting permits and would require more tree-clearing than many might expect if it were built in a forested area, said Jenna Ide, a deputy director for the state Division of Capital Asset Management, which is overseeing the project. The university plans to begin construction in the spring or summer and have the turbine up and running by a year from now, Paul Vigeant, the assistant chancellor for economic development, said.
One attendee at the meeting expressed concern about the effect of light flicker, the strobe light-like shadows cast when the sun is directly behind the rotating turbine blades. Stephen Wiehe, the project manager for the planners Weston & Sampson, said a model showed that most of the campus would receive only 20 hours or less of light flicker over the span of a year.
For many who spoke, the turbine was called an exciting plan.
“It will be a huge point of pride for the university,” said Tom Paine, the project manager for UMass Dartmouth’s sustainability office. “I’m very excited to see we’re doing this.”
Liz Townley, a senior marketing major and the president of the UMass Dartmouth chapter of the organization Net Impact, said placing the turbine in such a visible area will help the university attract students who place a priority on environmental friendliness.
From the campus center, the vista would be improved, she said. “I think it would actually add to the view.”
The 600-kilowatt turbine, which would be nearly as tall as the campanile tower at the center of campus, is estimated to save about $125,000 a year – or 1 to 2 percent of the university’s energy costs. Renderings showed that the turbine wouldn’t be visible from the entrance to campus but could be seen from some points on Alden Avenue across from the pond.
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