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A wind turbine on Melrose’s Mount Hood?

Could a wind turbine on Mount Hood generate enough electricity to power both Mount Hood Golf Course, and the city’s public schools? And if so, how much would it cost, how tall would it be, and who would pay for it?

The Melrose Park Commission took a step toward answering those questions on Monday night by approving an expenditure of up to $4,250, which will allow the city to go forward with a state-subsidized feasibility study into the viability of a wind energy project at Mount Hood.

The wind turbine study, which costs $50-85K, depending on the amount of electricity the turbine would generate, is paid for through the Commonwealth Wind Incentive Program, offered by the state-funded Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC).

The Melrose Energy Commission began pursuing a grant through the Wind Incentive program in 2009. The Park Commission was told in 2006 that there was not enough wind at Mount Hood to qualify for a similar grant program offered by the state, based on the available wind technology at that time. Improvements in wind turbine technology since then may provide a viable path to generating wind energy near the 11th and 18th holes of the Mount Hood Golf Course, however.

In order to the qualify for the Wind Incentive program, the city was first required to undergo a study by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to determine whether a wind turbine would interfere with radio communications from nearby airports. After a three-month delay, the FAA recently completed the study, concluding a turbine would pose no interference with aviation equipment. The Energy Commission is also filing for a revised assessment from the FAA to evaluate the effects of an even taller turbine.

The Wind Incentive program requires cities and towns to contribute 5 percent of the cost of a feasibility study. At most, this would obligate the Park Commission to pay $4,250 for the study.

The study would look at seven issues, including siting; wind resources and energy production; appropriate technology; electrical infrastructure requirements; environmental and permitting issues; community impact; and project economics.

“As you go up in size and power, you go up in height of the turbine as well,” explained David Shakespeare, chairman of the energy commission.

The city would have three funding options to construct a wind turbine at Mount Hood: taking out a bond to be paid back in its entirety, in which case the city would own the turbine; leasing the land to a private company that would construct the turbine and sell the energy to the city at a discounted rate; or by securing funding from energy-efficiency grants.

Based on a preliminary study of the wind energy project, a small turbine – one that would generate about 100 kW – would be powerful enough to supply energy for Mount Hood Golf Course, and possibly the Beebe School, located on West Foster Street, currently occupied by the Anova School. A larger 900 kW tower – a size that might be used in a small wind farm – would generate enough power to supply all of the schools in the city, except the two largest, Melrose High School and the Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School, Shakespeare told the Park Commission during a presentation on Monday night, Feb. 7.