Nantucket voters never got the opportunity to decide whether the Cape Wind project should go forward in federal waters. Town Meeting never had a say on the wind turbine now spinning behind Nantucket High School, which was financed with private funds.
But next month, Nantucketers will get to weigh in on the town’s own renewable-energy project, a proposal to build two large wind turbines at the Madaket landfill.
As the debate over Cape Wind rages on and many Massachusetts cities and towns are grappling with the issues surrounding the construction of land-based wind turbines, Nantucket will dive head first into the debate next month with a bold bet on a wind-power project fraught with potential risks and possibly lucrative rewards.
The first number sure to catch most eyes at Town Meeting next month comes in article 45: the $7.2 million appropriation voters could be asked to approve to finance the project. The number is the highest estimate the town’s consultants could offer at this point in the process, and they believe the final cost to build the turbines will be well below that amount. There was also debate among town leaders this week on whether the appropriation request should be put on hold while the final details of the project are hashed out. The money for the project would not only have to be approved by Town Meeting, but also again as a debt-exclusion override on a subsequent ballot vote.
As it stands today, the project would include the construction of two 900-kilowatt wind turbines, capable of offsetting $250,000 to $400,000 of the town’s annual electricity usage, even after yearly operating and debt service-costs are covered. An even larger 1.5-megawatt turbine had been considered, but the sheer size of the turbine’s blades meant they would have to be delivered to the site by a helicopter, as Nantucket’s narrow streets could not accommodate a traditional delivery by truck from the harbor to Madaket Road. Delivery by helicopter would likely have voided the blades’ warranty, members of the town’s energy-study committee have said.
The two smaller turbines that are the preference of project consultants would rise roughly 350 feet above the ground, far larger and more productive than Nantucket High School’s 156-foot Northwind 100 turbine, a 100-kilowatt model.
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