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Voters approve expanding use of landfill site to include wind energy

Major decisions associated with the town’s effort to install wind turbines at the Madaket landfill – most notably an appropriation as high as $7.2 million to build them – were put on hold this year, but Town Meeting voters did approve an incremental step forward for the project in Article 44.

The real estate proposal to expand the purpose of the landfill site off Madaket Road to include the development of wind energy was approved by voters Monday night on a majority voice vote. It was one of three articles associated with the project put forward by the Board of Selectmen when the Town Meeting warrant was drafted, but the other two, including the appropriation in Article 45 and a proposed wind energy overlay district in Article 46, were both punted to a later date as proponents continue to work out the details of the ambitious project.

At this point in the planning process, the Energy Study Committee, town administration and project consultants are moving forward with the concept for 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 services costs are covered. The two smaller turbines would likely rise up to 350 feet above the ground, far larger and more productive than Nantucket High School’s 156-foot Northwind 100 turbine, a 100-kilowatt model.

The electricity generated by the two turbines would be used directly at the landfill to power the digester machine and the rest of the operation, with any excess energy sold back into the grid as it will be interconnected to National Grid distribution system through so-called “net metering,” but only if the project can qualify for the company’s program. The electric bills at the landfill are paid by the town, not its operator Waste Options. In the last fiscal year, the town paid National Grid and its supplier, Constellation, over $395,000 to purchase electricity for the landfill.

Some Madaket residents questioned moving forward with Article 44 on Monday given the still developing plans for the turbines, ongoing impact studies, and continuing community outreach efforts.

“This whole question of wind energy at the Madaket landfill seems to be a moving target, with changes in the position of the town,” said Madaket Homeowners Association president Charles Stott. “I suggest we wait and consider it with a package of other articles.”