By the end of this summer, visitors driving across the Sagamore Bridge will be greeted by two new wind turbines poking up out of the pitch pine and scrub oak of the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
The foundation for one turbine has been poured and a second one, weather permitting, could be poured today, said Rose Forbes, who has spearheaded the wind turbine projects for the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment.
Tower sections are expected to begin arriving this week, and once all the parts have arrived, a huge crane will be brought in to hoist them skyward.
“Once everything is on site, they go up quickly,” Forbes said.
The timeline calls for construction to be completed in July and for the blades to spin as early as September, she said.
Each of the 1.5-megawatt turbines will be nearly 400 feet tall. Combined with a turbine already in operation near Route 151 in Falmouth, they are expected to someday generate all the electricity needed to operate the treatment plants for the Air Force’s ongoing groundwater cleanup.
The newest project will cost the Army and Air Force a total of $9.62 million, which includes the two turbines and building a substation to tie them into NStar’s transmission lines, Forbes said. Both the Air Force and Army cleanup programs will get credits under the state’s Green Communities Act to offset the electricity they use to pump and treat water, she said.
After some initial mechanical problems, the first turbine, which has been operating for a little more than a year, is now generating about 30 percent of the electricity for the treatment plants, Forbes said. Though she’s still calculating the cost benefits, it is estimated to save the program about $500,000 per year.
“As of Jan. 20, it’s been fantastic,” she said. “We’re really happy with it.”
Unlike the land-based turbine projects surrounding the Upper Cape base, which have come under intense scrutiny from neighbors, the base projects have gotten only positive feedback, Forbes said. Even residents of nearby Coast Guard housing have heaped praise on them, she said.
The new turbines will be located in the northern portion of the 22,000-acre base near the 6th Space Warning Squadron’s PAVE PAWS radar station. The turbines are at least 3,000 feet from the nearest residence in Sagamore, which is located across Route 6 from the base, Forbes said.
“We don’t anticipate any (complaints) with it based on that,” she said.
There are likely few complaints because they’re not affecting neighborhoods, Todd Drummey, one of the critics of two 1.65-megawatt turbines built by the town near his house in Falmouth, said.
“My general thought is that (the base turbines) are not getting much opposition because they’re not putting them 1,000 feet from people’s houses,” he said. “There may be places like Otis where there aren’t a lot of houses and there are lots of woods where it makes perfect sense to build wind turbines.”
In 2009, a state environmental study identified the base as one of the top seven locations in the state for wind projects. Shortly after that, the Massachusetts National Guard filed plans to site as many as 17 turbines at Camp Edwards.
Some of those sites have been ruled out because they would interfere with aviation, but last month officials celebrated the construction of a 151-foot, 50-kilowatt turbine at the Massachusetts National Cemetery that is expected to cover 95 percent of its energy needs.
Meanwhile, PAVE PAWS, the radar station on the base, received approval from the Environmental Management Commission earlier this month for two 1.5- or 1.6-megawatt wind towers. The project is still dependent on financing and won’t likely begin until next spring, Stephen Mellin, a support officer for the project, said.
Environmental officials were pleased with the willingness of PAVE PAWS to relocate one of the two proposed turbines onto land already cleared for National Guard training rather than destroy sensitive habitat for the reservation’s many rare and endangered species, Mark Begley, executive director of the Environmental Management Commission, said.
“It ended up being a win-win for everyone,” Begley said.
The wind projects already under way under the direction of Forbes have made it easier for the 6th Space Warning Squadron to make its case, Mellin said. “They’ve blazed the trail and we’re following behind.”
Like the Air Force turbines, the closest residences are more than 3,000 feet away, he said.
“One of the closest houses is mine, so if there are any problems I’ll be the first to know,” Mellin said.
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