HARWICH – The dust has barely settled on last spring’s town meeting vote to reject a pair of 400-foot wind turbines in North Harwich. But now, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School is now proposing its own turbine – which may reach up to 330 feet in height.
The board of selectmen heard about the project for the first time last week and although it agreed to offer a letter of support through the town administrator, it didn’t appear comfortable with the idea of another controversial turbine proposal.
“The magnitude for the two turbines was consternation for town meeting,” town administrator James Merriam reminded the board.
“The (Tech) had a small turbine),” said Selectmen chairman Angelo La Mantia, referring to the school’s existing 125-foot tall turbine on its campus.
“I think it’d be good for you to warn them about the host of issues” involving neighbors, LaMantia told Merriam.
But Tech Superintendent Bob Sanborn told Harwich Oracle he believes the proposal is a natural step for the school as the campus tries to generate all its own power.
It currently uses natural gas to generate electricity as well as the current wind turbine to meet up to half of its power needs.
“This project is in the earliest stage,” he said. “We are seeking funding for a feasibility study – that’s where it’s at.”
The Tech asked selectmen for a letter of support because one is required in order to seek funds from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative.
“We asked Jim to do that for us because it was a required for a submission,” explained Sanborn.
But the letter from the town, signed by Merriam, offers only conditional support for the project.
“I am aware of and in support of a wind turbine project at (the Tech) assuming they effectively satisfy all federal state, and local permitting requirements,” it states.
Sanborn said that the school is seeking outside technical expertise.
“We are working with a company called Sustainable Energy Development to guide us through the process,” he added. The company, he said, is based in Ontario, N.Y.
“They are going to be determining where it would be located and the size,” he said.
Sanborn indicated that the biggest turbine that could be placed on the campus would be 900 kilowatts and between 285 and 330 feet tall.
Given that the property stretches across 67 acres, there might be several possible locations for the turbine but an area initially targeted is on the south side of the campus, between a parking lot and a stand of woods.
Sanborn said it would be “sufficient” distance from the nearby football field.
“We’re excited about it. In our small experience with wind turbines, it’s been very positive,” he said.
Sandborn noted that the school would likely lease the property to a company that would pay for, install and maintain the turbine. The school would then buy the generated power at a set price and sell extra electricity back to the grid.
The superintendent said he is aware that neighborhood opposition eventually halted the town’s two-turbine project last year.
When asked about the school’s relationship to its neighbors, Sanborn noted that past projects like a wetlands permit had been backed. In fact, one of Tech’s neighbors already has his own turbine.
“There’s not a lot of neighbors – not many abutters,” he said.
“This is another phase of our endeavors into renewable energy,” he stated. “We’ll make sure our kids are learning from it as well.”
But one resident who helped turn away the last turbine proposal wasn’t as optimistic.
Rick Toma from North Harwich was surprised when informed of the proposed turbine. Toma’s son is in the 10th grade at Tech.
“Quite honestly, I don’t have a problem with people seeking out renewable energy,” he said, adding, “I just hope that they are properly placed in regards to neighbors.
Toma noted that the vibrations from a turbine over 300 feet are going to be noticeable in parts of the school.
“I’d hate for them to have to shut it off when the kids are at school, so they could concentrate,” he added. “We’ll see. I’m just getting informed.”