TRURO – What the National Seashore had hoped would be an opportunity to “showcase renewable energy” on Cape Cod has been struck down. Park Supt. George Price announced on Monday, at a meeting of the Seashore’s Advisory Commission, that the Federal Aviation Administration had denied the park’s proposal to install a wind turbine at the Highlands Center.
Since 2004 the Seashore has explored using wind and solar power at the Highlands Center, a former air force base abutted by a 92-foot-tall FAA radar dome. In 2009 the park embarked on a wind feasibility study and submitted a plan to the FAA for a tower of a range of sizes, up to 334 feet, to be located either at the former helipad or ball field at the center. The FAA came back with a blanket rejection of the proposal, saying a turbine of any height in that area would interfere with the ability of the radar dome, which helps guide air traffic over the North Atlantic, to function.
The Seashore pressed the agency to reconsider.
“We believed that was a pat answer. We thought there was modeling that could be done and we didn’t think it was outrageous of us to ask them to reconsider,” Price said. In April 2010 the Seashore told the FAA that it had “a first-rate opportunity with this site to showcase renewable energy … in one of the windiest land-based locations in Massachusetts,” and said it would be willing to lower the maximum turbine size indicated in the original proposal.
But in November the FAA came back with the same answer – no turbines, period.
“At this time, I believe it’s in our best interest to suspend our investigation of wind turbines at this location,” Price said on Monday. “What I really think we need to focus on is the programming itself, the development of the facilities” at the Highlands Center, whose mission is to promote the arts and the environment.
Price said opportunities remain to explore other types of green energy at the center. The Seashore has paid $30,000 so far for a feasibility study that looks at both wind and solar opportunities at the Highlands Center.
Wind energy has been a hot topic at the last few advisory commission meetings, and at least one member of the board expressed disappointment with the FAA’s finding.
“I find it hard to believe that the federal government, given what we know about fossil fuels, is still finding ways to curtail green energy in this day and age,” said Mary-Jo Avellar, Provincetown’s delegate to the commission. She said she hoped the park could bring back a turbine proposal “sooner rather than later.”
Price said plans for a turbine at the Herring Cove bathhouse in Provincetown are still on the table. The bathhouse project is in the design stage.
“If and when the Park Service decides to take on “a new exploration” of wind energy in the Seashore, he said it would be accompanied by a “public process.”
One outspoken critic of turbines in the park, Eric Bibler, president of Save Our Seashore, indicated it was only fitting that the FAA issued the decision it did on the Highlands Center wind tower.
“The project was ludicrous from the start since the wind turbines would have been sited right on top of the radar and their moving blades would have wreaked havoc with the proper function of a radar installation that is critical to both domestic aviation and national defense,” Bibler wrote in an e-mail in late December.
He interpreted the FAA’s response to the Seashore as “What part of ‘No’ don’t you understand?”
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