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Saugus gets grant to explore green energy turbines

SAUGUS – Saugus will be dipping its toes into the clean energy waters this summer, after being awarded an $85,000 feasibility grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to explore the possibility of installing up to three wind turbines off of Route 107.

Town Manager Andrew Bisignani said the study would involve constr-ucting a weather tower to track wind speeds and weather patterns in the area. If the site proves suitable, the next step would be to seek funds for the project. But, Bisignani said, that would be far down the line.

“You have to have minimum wind velocity and certain atmospheric conditions,” said Bisignani. “but that remains to be seen.”

The proposed site sits on state-owned land off of 107 near the old I-95 connector, and is controlled by the Department of Conservation and Recreation. Because of its remote location, Bisignani said the site is well-suited for wind turbines.

“It’s the most practical site,” said Bisignani. “It’s away from everybody. There aren’t any residences that will be directly affected by it. It might be viewable in the distance, but I don’t think they’re that offensive to look at.”

Currently 40 wind turbines are installed in towns and cities throughout Massachusetts, including Chelsea, Medford, Newburyport, Dorchester and Ipswich. In May, the first full wind farm in the commonwealth was opened in Hancock with 10 turbines.

Kate Plourd, the Communications Manager for MassCEC, said this is all part of a trend toward clean energy.

“We do see a number of towns seeing if wind will work for them,” said Plourd. “One of the main goals is to offset municipal electricity use. Cities and towns have many reasons for looking into wind energy, including reducing dependence on fossil fuels and providing additional revenue sources to the city or town.”

Plourd said the weather tower in Saugus would stand at around 160 feet tall and would be in place for a year in order to gather wind data from all four seasons.

If Saugus does in fact prove suitable for a turbine, Bisignani said the benefits will be “obvious.”

“We can save money in the long run,” said Bisignani. “It’s clean, renewable energy and less dependance on public utilities and all the associated negatives in the way of carbon footprint. If it produces enough power, the power could either be sold to a power company and, in turn, the town would get a break in its rate or the power could be traded to company and the town would get a credit to municipal power. But that’s to be determined.”

Bisignani gave much of the credit to the Saugus Alternative Energy Committee, which has been working to obtain such a grant for several years.

“They’re the ones who carried the ball on all this,” said Bisignani. “They did all the work.”