BREWSTER – Brewster selectmen and the Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative made their final sales pitch for the town’s twin-turbine proposal Monday night, as a final vote on the project looms Wednesday, Feb. 9, before the planning board.
“The president of the United States has made it part of his program to have renewable energy projects. The governor of the state has made it part of his program,” noted Ed Lewis, selectmen chairman, so why not Brewster, he wondered.
The two, 410-foot-tall turbines would be built on leased town land, next to the Captains Course driving range, in Commerce Park, off Freeman’s Way, within view of Route 6. They expect to generate $3.6 million in electrical energy cost savings and lease payments for Brewster over the first 15 years of operation.
The effort began in 2003 when the Alternative Energy Committee was created. A test tower was erected at Captains Course in 2005, town meeting in 2007 passed a wind energy bylaw to zone for the towers, Black and Veatch evaluated six different sites in 2008 and subsequent town meetings completed rezoning of the sites and authorized selectmen to negotiate with the CVEC (formed in 2008) to build and operate the turbines.
“This didn’t happen overnight,” Selectman Greg Levasseur noted. “Every step of the way Brewster got direction from town meeting. We were told to go do this. We believe this is a good proposal.”
Selectmen determined that Commerce Park was superior and held two public hearings on the matter. There was no in-town opposition at either one; however, now there are vocal opponents from Brewster and they made their thoughts known at the first meeting of the planning board in November, and again on Monday night.
Levasseur said the town will receive $100,000 a year in lease payments for the property, and initially offset electric costs by about $80,000, a number that could rise over time.
“This is a way of taxes not going up as much as they normally would,” Levasseur said.
As a rural electric coop (of 19 towns and local entities, including Brewster), CVEC can receive low cost financing from the federal government. They will issue a bond for $10 million to construct the turbines; decommissioning costs are factored in. The two towers should produce six million kilowatt hours of electricity each year, covering Brewster’s electrical needs, noted CVEC representative Maggie Downey. Excess electricity will be sold into the grid and benefit CVEC members. The turbine’s life is 20 to 25 years.
“None of the liability rest solely with the town of Brewster,” Downey said.
The closest residence is 1,800 feet away, the Woodlands is 2,377 feet away and there are seven residences within half a mile. In contrast, there are more than 200 residences within half a mile of the Hull, Mass Maritime and Portsmouth, R.I. turbines. There have been 13 complaints about the Falmouth turbine at the waste treatment plant but only one about the other three turbines combined.
Downey said the Falmouth turbine is an older stall regulated technology where the blades are unable to flex when the wind hits them. Brewster turbines would be pitch-regulated and less noisy.
“So there is a difference between the projects,” Downey said. “We can’t find any evidence of health effects from infra (inaudible) sound.”
“We believe this is the best site for a wind turbine,” added Richard Wolf of the energy committee.
There were about 100 people in the audience and they submitted questions via index cards.
Questions and answers:
Citizens submitted questions about the turbines to selectmen. Here’s a sampling:
If there is a negative effect on property values, will the town guarantee that?
“No they won’t because the effects on value can’t be established objectively.” Selectmen Ed Lewis
Are you aware Cape Cod is too densely populated to put up wind turbines without arousing lawsuits?
“We evaluated a lot of sites and this is one of the best sites of all because of the distances to homes.” Town Administrator Charles Sumner
Has Brewster done research on children in schools near turbines?
There are no schools near Brewster’s turbines and turbines in Portsmouth, Mass. Maritime and Hull are at schools with seemingly no ill effect.
Has science proved turbines decrease the “carbon footprint”?
“Measure the (output from) six million kilowatt hours and compare that with gas or coal.” Maggie Downey, Cape and Vineyard Electric Cooperative
Will CVEC appeal if the planning board denies the permit?
“Any aggrieved party can appeal.” Charles Sumner
How will the town monitor and enforce compliance with the rules?
“If a party has a complaint, they file a complaint with the building commissioner and he will investigate and test for noise.” Charles Sumner.
CVEC will clear some land for an access road and for the turbine. If there is a fire, the fire department will let it burn out.
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