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Feasibility study favors wind turbine project in Swampscott

SWAMPSCOTT – A draft study presented to the Renewable Energy Committee concludes that an approximately 350-foot-tall commercial wind turbine could capture enough wind to reduce energy costs at the middle school and Little League fields without creating noise in excess of state limits.

But the study’s author said that the town has a long process ahead if it wants to erect any turbine.

“This is just a first step to determine if the site is viable or not,” study author Jonathan Markey of Meridien Associates said recently. “The town still has a significant amount of work to do if this is something they want to do … we’re really not that close to just putting a turbine up. This is the very, very first step.”

The town received a $75,000 grant last year to do a feasibility study on erecting a wind turbine just beyond the baseball diamonds at Forest Avenue – one of four sites examined by the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory at University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2008 for local wind projects. The recent study examined the site’s wind resource, access and other physical characteristics, and the noise impacts of a proposed turbine, said Assistant Town Engineer Victoria Masone.

Markey said that the wind strength and consistency was “favorable” for a commercial scale project, but the sound requirements set by the state Department of Environmental Protection limited the size of the turbines to 750 kilowatt (kW) and 900 kW models. These are approximately 350 feet tall at the tip of the highest blade, Markey said. He said that this was approximately 50 feet taller than the turbine at Newburyport, but 50 feet shorter than the turbine at Ipswich.

Renewable Energy Committee Chair Neal Duffy said that the committee was surprised the site could accommodate the 900 kW model.

“It is probably the optimal turbine for the site and when still drafting the report, it was going to be a 650 kW as the recommended size,” Duffy said. He said that although the 900 kW model is 5 meters (or 16.4 feet) taller, it is “quieter and produces a lot more power.”