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Selectmen review renewable energy projects

A very green future for Nantucket, filled with renewable energy projects, was outlined during Wednesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting.

The selectmen heard reports on two potential municipal projects, including a wind turbine at the Madaket landfill, and solar farms at four sites around the island, including the Surfside sewer plant, Nantucket Memorial Airport, the Wyer’s Valley pumping station, and the North Pasture Water Tower.

Kevin Schulte, the CEO of Sustainable Energy Developments (SED), the company that won a town contract to explore the wind turbine project, said there are three potential sites for turbines at the landfill. SED is currently evaluating the possibility of siting a single 390-foot, 1.5 megawatt turbine, or two smaller 350-foot 900 kilowatt turbines. Both are significantly larger than the existing wind turbine at Nantucket High School that was erected last fall.

“The wind here is absolutely roaring,” Schulte said. “A wind project is easy when you have the resources available here on Nantucket. We’re building projects all over the northeast, and a 20 mph average wind speed which you have is a dream. It will turn into an economic benefit for the town of Nantucket.”

The potential sites at the landfill are roughly 1,200 feet from the nearest residence, Schulte said, and impact studies, including bird, noise and visual surveys, are currently underway.

The project could cost the town $3.5 million to $6 million, depending upon the turbine model that is selected. Schulte estimated the project could save the town anywhere from $8 million to $16 million in electricity costs over the life of the turbines, with a six to seven year payback.

“It’s a project where we don’t know all the answers up front,” said consultant George Aronson. “We want to do it right, and if we can’t do it right, we don’t do it.”

Following Schulte’s presentation, the town’s consultant on its photovoltaic solar farm initiative, Robert Patterson, unveiled an ambitious plan to install four separate arrays at different locations around the island with a potential for eight megawatts of electric generation capacity.

Following a process set out in the state Green Communities Act, Patterson said the town could issue requests for proposals from solar developers, which would enter into power purchase agreements and facility leases to build and operate solar farms.

“The project is paid up front by the developer, with no capital commitment by the town,” Patterson said. “We’re talking about an investment in solar projects of about $38 million, all paid for by a developer or several developers.”

Once the solar farms are up and running, the power purchase agreements would stipulate a low fixed price at which the town would purchase electricity from the developer. The town could decide whether to sell excess electric production on the market, or net-meter the power to other municipal facilities.

Patterson estimated the four projects together could save the town $900,000 to $1 million in electricity costs. The average footprint for a single solar array is eight to 10 acres, Patterson said.

For more information, check out the town’s new web site, www.ackenergy.org

In other news from Wednesday night’s meeting, the board unanimously approved the following pending contracts:

• A $24,000 contract with Kaestle Boos Associates for design services for a fuel dispensing station at Nantucket Memorial Airport. The funding source is Article 10 of the 2010 Annual Town Meeting. The fuel station would be for use by all town departments, and would replace the existing town fuel station at the fire department on Pleasant Street.

• A memorandum of agreement between the Our Island Home enterprise fund and Nantucket Cottage Hospital for Medicare ancillary services part A & B. The funding source is the Medicare expense budget.

A conservation restriction on 5.8 acres of Tuckernuck Island granted by Humane House LLC to The Nature Conservancy, a Virginia-based non-profit, was approved 3-1, with Brian Chadwick opposed. The restriction extinguishes development rights on 5.8 acres of a 6.3 acre parcel on Tuckernuck which contains sandplain grassland habitat. The remaining .49 acres will comprise a building envelope for two houses and ancillary buildings, a septic system and a well. Chadwick questioned whether a public benefit truly existed in granting the restriction, considering the fact that it would prohibit public access to the property. A Nature Conservancy representative said the parcel was landlocked by other private property, and the public benefited from the preservation of rare habitats and species.

A request from Town Clerk Catherine Flanagan Stover to reappoint David Goodman to another term as a Registrar of Voters was unanimously approved. The new term will run through March 31, 2014.

In a presentation on the ongoing landfill mining program by the town’s consultant, CommonWealth Resource Management Corporation, the selectmen were briefed on several potential initiatives to reduce solid waste costs at the dump. The proposals included issuing an RFQ for construction and demolition waste trucking services, and reducing compost residuals by testing biodegradable bags or gasifying baled plastics. The ongoing mining project is intended to defer and/or reduce the cost of closing existing lined landfill cells, creating additional space for compost residuals, reclaiming acreage for future use, and recovering soils and sand to build new cells. So far, the project has deferred the need to cap an existing cell until 2015, recovered 100,00 cubic yards of soil and 12,000 cubic yards of sand, according to CommonWealth’s report. The materials were used to build a storm water basin and to raise the grade of another cell, which saved the town $1.2 million.

Beach manager Jeff Carlson presented a draft of the 2011 beach map, which includes vehicle access points and other information. The only substantive change in the map was at the tip of Eel Point, which will be closed to beach driving this year due to erosion, Carlson said.

The board approved an application from the Epernay wine store on North Beach Street to relinquish its seasonal wine and malt liquor license in exchange for a seasonal all-alcoholic beverages package store license that will allow it to sell premium spirits.

DeMarco’s restaurant application for an alteration of the liquor license premises to include 20 dining seats in a new patio area with bar service at the India Street establishment was unanimously approved.

A public hearing was held to discuss possible amendments to the town sewer districts based on citizen petitions submitted for the 2011 Annual Town Meeting. Four proposals include additions to the two sewer districts including properties on Cato Lane, Brewster Road, Polpis Road and Hummock Pond Road. Planning director Andrew Vorce said he and DPW director Jeff Willett needed some additional information before the potential additions could be fully vetted. The hearing was continued to Feb. 2.

Vorce presented several zoning articles that will be up for debate at the 2011 Annual Town Meeting, including a new Wind Energy Overlay District designed around the area slated for the town’s wind turbine project in Madaket. The article will include a height exemption for turbines.

The selectmen voted unanimously to adopt the town administration’s general fund budget recommendations, which will now be forwarded to the Finance Committee for review before it lands on the floor of Town Meeting in April. The recommendations include town manager Libby Gibson’s controversial consolidation plan for several town departments.