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Wind energy feasibility study finds Butler Farm a favorable site for turbine

MILLBURY, Mass. – A recent Wind Energy Feasibility Study revealed several favorable factors for a wind energy project in Millbury. The study was presented to the Board of Selectmen by Steve Wiehe and Johanna Nagle of Weston and Sampson environmental infrastructure consultants.

In June of 2009, the UMass Wind Energy Center identified three potential wind turbine sites including Butler Farm, Davidson Sanctuary, and Stowe Meadows. The recent feasibility study focused on the Butler Farm Site. According to Nagle, the wind turbine would provide electricity for the Town to offset electrical expenses and would be a showcase renewable energy project in the Blackstone River Valley.

The study researched a variety of factors including height restrictions, proximity to airports, site physical characteristics, site access, site geology, soil conditions and existing electrical infrastructure. The proposed height of the wind turbine for study purposes was approximately 410 ft.

The study also mentions a variety of human health and safety risks including Wind Turbine Syndrome, noise and low frequency sound, shadow flicker, visual impacts, ice throw, safety setbacks and fire.

“The installation of a wind energy conversion facility appears technically and economically viable,” Nagle said. The next step in the process would be to determine the level of public support or opposition and establish siting criteria and bylaws for permitting.

If the project is approved, the study recommends a MET tower should be installed. The MET tower is recommended prior to any large capital investment such as a wind turbine. The tower would gather site specific wind data, validate energy production assumptions and generate site specific data to be used for turbine design selection. The MET tower typically costs approximately $15,000, but would be funded by the Clean Energy Center Grant. According to Wiehe, there is a previous tower that is readily available for Millbury to use.

The Energy Advisory Committee will review the study and make a formal recommendation to the Board of Selectmen within a week or two.

“We are just entertaining the idea,” Selectmen E. Bernard Plante said.

“The first step is finding out whether it is feasible. As for erecting it, that step is still a ways away,” he said.