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Meteorological tower comes down in Northborough

NORTHBOROUGH – The Ball Hill meteorological tower that has cast its shadow over Tougas Family Farm on Ball Street for about a year came down yesterday, taking with it the fate of the town’s future renewable energy plans.

The 165-foot tower, erected July 15, 2010, measured wind speeds for a year to determine whether the area could support a wind turbine.

Town leaders last August expressed interest in plans for a $3 million, 1.5-megawatt turbine that would stand about 200 feet tall and supply about half of the town’s energy needs.

The meteorological tower project, funded through an $85,000 state wind initiative, is being managed by Matt Vanderbrook, a project manager with Sustainable Energy Development of Ontario, N.Y.

Vanderbrook said yesterday that although the tower collected data through a secure digital memory card that was pulled each month, early results won’t be available until September or October.

“We send the data out to another company that collects long-term wind data from airports and other sites,” he said. “Winds don’t blow the same every year, so this will allow us to compare the data to a long-term trend and model (a potential turbine) out to different locations in the area.”

After comparing the tower’s results to historical and regional data, as well as predicting the effectiveness of different potential sites in town, Vanderbrook will issue a draft report in September or October before filing a final report near the end of the year.

Vanderbrook thanked the Tougas family for allowing the town to use its land. The Conservation Commission had opposed building the tower on town property.

“They’ve been great,” he said. “A lot of credit goes to them for taking this on.”

“I just hope it works out,” Andre Tougas said. “It would be great for the town.”

Sustainable Energy Development workers Derek Sabin and Joe Swaba said taking down the tower was about a six-hour job that involved patience and diligence. The two started at 11 a.m. by driving a pole, called a gin pole, into the ground, attaching guy-wires to the tower and using a winch to slowly lower it.

“It gets boring,” Sabin joked in the sweltering midday heat.