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Turbine plan draws few foes  

Credit:  By Christine Legere, Globe Correspondent, The Boston Globe, www.boston.com 5 December 2010 ~~

While wind turbine proposals often meet with stiff opposition from abutters in their targeted host communities, a 410-foot turbine planned for Cohasset’s Turkey Hill appears to have drawn little criticism, and proponents predict blades should be whirring in the production of green energy by this time next year.

The Trustees of Reservations, a nonprofit conservation organization based in Sharon, has proposed the turbine for its 850-acre property, which lies in both Cohasset and Hingham. The site, far from pristine, has a long history of industrial use. One section was the former home of a missile silo, and two cell towers are already operating on the hill.

The 1.8-megawatt turbine on the table would produce 5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually, enough to power about 700 Massachusetts homes. Steve Sloan, the trustees’ Greater Boston regional director, said 10 to 15 percent of the energy produced by the turbine will fill the power needs of the organization’s 17 properties that are connected to the area grid. The rest of the electricity will be sold to the grid.

“We expect to get between $400,000 and $550,000 in [annual gross] revenue,’’ Sloan said. “Given the project will cost $5 [million] to $6 million, we will at worst break even, and at best generate $50,000 to $100,000 in net revenue for all our projects.’’

The town will also receive some tax benefit, since the wind turbine is a taxable improvement on otherwise nontaxable land. Just how much the amount will be has not been calculated.

Cohasset has yet to approve a wind turbine in town, although it has had a bylaw in place for about two years. Last year, a proposal by Plymouth-based CCI Energy for two 450-foot-high industrial wind turbines on the old Graham Waste Services site off Route 3A drew an outcry from those living in nearby neighborhoods.

The first time through, the proposal failed to win adequate support from the Planning Board. When it was brought back with a few modifications a few months later, it was rejected because the fall zone of one tower didn’t meet local bylaw requirements.

“A lot of people came out of the woodwork that time to give reasons why turbines are really, really bad for the birds and the bunnies,’’ said Planning Board chairman Al Moore of those contentious meetings. “Nobody wanted to stand up and say ‘I just don’t like the way they look’ .’’

“The trustees have done a fabulous job of putting their proposal together,’’ he said. “CCI had a good proposal, but they seemed new at it. When people are stuttering for answers, it helps the opposition.’’

The Planning Board opened its hearing process on the trustees’ turbine proposal last month. The project will need site plan approval, as well as a special permit. Because the target spot is isolated, the proposal hasn’t stirred up the typical concerns about noise and light-and-shadow flicker from spinning blades, along with possible negative impact to property values.

“There were a lot of people there, but there was nowhere near the outcry,’’ Moore said. The Planning Board’s hearing will continue at 7:30 p.m. this Wednesday in Town Hall.

“Everything about the proposal seems to meet local zoning,’’ Moore said. “Hopefully, there won’t be any controversy.’’ He said the trustees’ tower would still have considerable visual impact from a distance, in part because it would sit on a hill.

As might be expected, CCI Energy is watching the progress of the trustees’ proposal closely.

“We will try to be the contractor for the Turkey Hill project, providing the wind turbine and installing it,’’ said CCI president James Sweeney. CCI hasn’t completely walked away from its proposal for the Graham Waste site in any case, he said. “We may try to go forward with a proposal for one turbine after the first of the year,’’ he said.

The company has also tried to construct wind turbines in Plymouth and Fairhaven, meeting with stiff neighborhood opposition in both locations. Sweeney said he planned to withdraw his application for two turbines proposed for Hedges Pond Road in Plymouth, “and revise it to something more palatable, like a smaller turbine.’’ In Fairhaven, two proposed wind turbines secured all necessary permits but were then held up in court due to a 10-taxpayer lawsuit.

Despite such setbacks, Lisa Capone, spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said she expects the state will reach its goal of 2,000 megawatts of wind energy installed by 2020.

“In general, we’re seeing a steady increase in wind-energy projects,’’ Capone said. “Four years ago, the state had 3.1 megawatts of wind energy, and by the end of this year we’ll have 30 megawatts.’’

She said offshore projects, such as Cape Wind, will provide a tremendous boost in megawatts once they go online.

Source:  By Christine Legere, Globe Correspondent, The Boston Globe, www.boston.com 5 December 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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