The city of Salem has taken a major step toward acquiring a wind turbine.
Officials have been contemplating construction of wind turbine at Winter Island, after gathering data for a feasibility study. The data collected suggests there is enough wind speed in the area to use as a power source.
“Based on the wind resource review for the year that the meteorological tower was up – coordinated with wind data and historical trends – it is now clear that there is enough wind at Winter Island to support a wind turbine,” said Cindy Keegan, chairwoman of the Renewable Energy Task Force.
The feasibility study relied on data collected by a meteorological tower erected on Winter Island last December. It was prepared by a consultant, Meridian Associates, for the city of Salem and its Renewable Energy Task Force under a grant provided by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC).
The final draft of the feasibility study was submitted last Friday as part of a new grant application submitted to CEC for an additional $400,000 grant. If Salem wins the new grant, the money would be used for the next design and construction stage. (Click here to view the study.)
The Renewable Energy Task Force, along with Energy and Sustainability Manager Paul Marquis, have recommended the construction of a 1.5-megawatt power turbine at the tip of Winter Island, which is the furthest point from residences and where the winds are the strongest.
It would not be located where the testing tower was, and would be closer to the harbormaster’s office on Winter Island Road.
The proposed turbine would also be placed at least 300 feet away from existing property lines to meet city zoning requirements and would have a maximum height of 382 feet from the ground to the tip of the blade.
The city’s energy strategy calls for a 20 percent reduction in fossil fuel usage by 2014. The turbine, if constructed, would help the city meet that target, as it is expected to reduce fuel usage in municipal buildings by 20 to 30 percent.
The turbine is also likely to bring energy savings to the city. “It will be run as a ‘net-metered’ generation,” said Keegan, “meaning for every kilowatt hour it produces, those kilowatt hours are subtracted from the city’s energy bill.”
Keegan explained this would allow the city to avoid $345,000 to $953,000 in energy charges.
Ownership and operation options for the turbine are being reviewed by the city. At the moment the task force favors direct city ownership, because that generates revenue that goes directly back to the city.
The city is also applying for two grants to balance out the cost of construction: a $400,000 grant from the state’s Clean Energy Center and a $600,000 to 700,000 grant from Mass. Energy Consumers Alliance/New England Wind Fund.
The estimated full cost of a 1.5-megawatt turbine is $4.2 million according to Keegan, and she said the study suggests that the amount of debt created by the project would be more than offset by the energy cost reduction and the sale of renewable energy credits (RECs). These numbers could range between $60,000 and $200,000 in the first year, depending on how much grant money the city secures, the interest rate that it is financed at, and the confidence factor used for the wind estimate. (City Council would need to approve any debt the city might need to take on to help fund the turbine’s construction.)
Keegan believes this is a critical opportunity for the city to move forward with a renewable energy solution while reducing its energy costs. She adds that this is a “ … potential economic engine for the improvements and maintenance of Winter Island and other public resources.”
For the time being this is the only turbine plan the city is examining because turbines need to be adequately spaced to avoid interference. Keegan says while no serious reviews are underway for an additional turbine, “consideration could be given for a turbine on the power plant site along with other re-use proposals.”
The remainder of the project, if it goes forward, is expected to take another year. This will include design and construction (including permits, bidding for the turbine, gathering public support and financing determinations).
If all goes well with the funding and city approval process, the turbine could potentially be installed by the end of 2012 – the construction itself only takes about two months.
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