May 11, 2011

Wind turbine sites proposed

By Erin Dale, Duxbury Clipper, 11 May 2011

It might take a few more years, but wind power is on its way to Duxbury. The Alternative Energy Committee continues its quest for a suitable location for a wind turbine.

Members met on Tuesday, April 26 at the Senior Center to get the latest updates from Matt Vanderbrook of Sustainable Energy Development (SED), the company conducting the community wind program feasibility study administered by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC). SED has been hands on throughout the initial stages of the wind project, helping the town apply for the $65,000 grant it was awarded by MassCEC last year.

The project’s first stage is a site analysis.

“We go to the location, take a walk around and get a feel for the area,” said Vanderbrook. “We look at every element of the project to come up with ideas.”

Vanderbrook used Google Earth to show the committee members a bird’s-eye view of three possible turbine sites, which are all located between the DPW yard behind Town Hall and North Hill Golf Course. This was just a preview of what a turbine could look like in Duxbury; once an exact location is selected, SED will generate more detailed computer images of what the turbine will look like from certain vantage points.

When scouting possible locations, SED takes quite a few things into consideration, including the turbine’s aesthetics, sound and proximity to homes. SED is recommending a 900 kW, 330-foot tall turbine, which would have to be a minimum of 1,000 feet away from the nearest residence.

The site that the committee reacted to most favorably is located on the town-owned North Hill Golf Course and is over 1,000 feet from the nearest home and 180 feet from the property line. One of the advantages of this site is its easy accessibility. Also, at 23 meters, it is situated on one of the town’s highest elevations. The disadvantages? The committee could not help but wonder whether a wind turbine would be loud and potentially distracting for golfers.

According to Vanderbrook, state regulations require that a turbine cannot exceed over ten decibels at ambient level.

“This is about 40 decibels,” Vanderbrook said, referring to the sound of his voice at a conversational volume. “It’s not much. One thing we’ll be doing is a sound model, drawing rings around the turbine to show where the decibels are. We don’t want to do an expensive, full ambient study—it’s unnecessary.”

The course would also probably have to be closed during construction, but that could take place during the off season.

“We don’t know how golfers would feel having their turf ripped up for a bit,” said Vanderbrook, “or having a wind turbine right there.”

Once the exact location is selected and permissions are obtained from the Board of Selectmen, Vanderbrook anticipates that construction could happen quickly. The first steps – infrastructure, foundation and electrical – would take about a month to complete. Once the equipment is on-site, the turbine could be built in as a little as a week.

Vanderbook said a draft for construction could be ready by August. The committee hopes to have a presentation ready for next year’s Town Meeting at the latest, or possibly ready for a special meeting in October. SED would also help with presenting the project in public forums, which is part of the feasibility study, along with business planning and visual assessments.

“Best case scenario, if the stars align, construction could start in the fall of 2012,” said Vanderbrook. “Everything would have to be perfect. 2013 is more realistic.”

While the committee seemed pretty sold on the North Hill location, agreeing that a turbine on a golf course has a “coolness” and “wow factor,” no official decisions have been made.

Committee chair Jim Goldenberg said that they are not yet “putting our eggs in that basket” but that it’s a good idea to start the conversation now.

“Massachusetts is looked at as beacon of community wind energy at the moment,” Vanderbrook said.

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