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ZBA allows projects to study wind power in Westminster  

Credit:  By Caitlyn Kelleher, The Community Journal, www.thecommunityjournal.com ~~

While Zoning Board of Appeals members declined to call their votes on Thursday, Jan. 20, precedent setting, the board voted unanimously to allow height variances for the first meteorological testing tower and then for the first wind turbine.

“I wouldn’t call it precedent setting because of who the petitioner is,” said ZBA member John Bowen. “We’re dealing with an educational facility.”

The turbine, which will be located next to the field house on the campus of Montachusett Regional Vocational Technical School, is 75 feet high and will be used primarily as an education tool at the school, according to Richard Nutt, the director of vocational programs for the school.

The monopole turbine reaches 72 feet high from the ground to the tip of the blade. The tower will be installed, monitored and maintained by the students in the different shops at the school, while being overseen by those at Wind Guys USA, a New Hampshire-based company.

“We’re putting them on as high a tower as we can because it works better,” Jeff Goodman, of Wind Guys, said.

The tower will produce up to 2.4 kilowatts of electricity when the wind is blowing at 29 miles per hour. The representatives of Monty Tech said the wind averages 11 miles per hour at that location, so the limited electricity produced will be used to heat the field house, which is currently unheated.

The turbine is part of a plan to install a rain water collection area and an area for a few solar panels and all of these will be installed under a grant from the state.

“We want to make it a little energy center right there on the property,” Nutt said.

Matt Magee, a resident on an abutting property, expressed concerns about the possibility of shadows from the turbines’ blades coming into his house. The staff members from Wind Guys assured him that shadows would not be a problem and Nutt said if there is a problem then he would work to get it resolved.

The town does not have any zoning bylaws that address wind turbines. The Planning Board withdrew three proposed articles before the fall town meeting, but Bowen suggested using the drafts of those bylaws as guidelines for the approval and the conditions of the turbine and the tower, and among the conditions was that the turbine needed to be secure.

The board also voted to reduce the $1,500 fee for the application by Monty Tech to $200, which is the cost of an application for a residential permit and would cover the cost of advertising and notifying the abutters.

The ZBA also approved a 180-foot meteorological tower at the Woods of Westminster golf course off Bean Porridge Hill Road in the northern part of town.

The tower will stay up for one year and is part of a feasibility study to determine the wind speeds and directions as well as to take some solar measurements. The tower – 8 inches in diameter – is secured using guide wires and will be located off the course near the ninth hole.

Westminster resident Bill Goodwin asked, “Would it be safe for this audience to assume this is a precursor to having a wind turbine at this location?”

The Barkus family members, who own the property, and the representatives from Weston Solutions said that this was simply to determine the amount and quality of the wind on the site. The study is being completed under a grant from the state.

Both applicants must wait 20 days from the filing of the decision to see if there are any appeals and both projects must now be permitted by the building inspector.

Source:  By Caitlyn Kelleher, The Community Journal, www.thecommunityjournal.com

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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