August 5, 2011

Council studying turbine proposal

By Steven Fletcher, Staff Writer, Gloucester Times, 4 August 2011

A wind energy project shared between the city and a local company is expected to shave dollars off the municipal power bill while creating new jobs.

The private-public endeavor between Gloucester Engineering and the city is now under review by the City Council’s Planning and Development Committee. The company submitted a special permit application for a pair of 2-megawatt wind turbines in early July. Building the turbines on Dory Road property, owned by Gloucester Engineering, could cost slightly over $11 million, covered by the company.

Though the city won’t share the costs, it could reap some of the benefit, said City Planner Gregg Cadematori.

Gloucester Engineering’s project, he said, would feed electrical energy into the National Grid electrical infrastructure. That feeding goes through a process called “net metering,” which the state set up as part its Green Communities program. Gloucester obtained the Green Communities designation earlier this year. That designation requires cuts in energy use and a growth in renewable energy sources.

“You just can’t build a project and plug it into the grid,” said Richard Kleiman, project consultant.

Klieman said the net metering process requires companies such as Gloucester Engineering to partner with municipalities to plug a project into the existing electrical grid. That partnership, through the city has nothing to do with building the project aside from granting the permit, offers each party net metering credits.

Those credits discount electrical costs for both Gloucester Engineering and the city.

“It’s not like the city would have all it’s electricity paid for,” Cadematori said.

Most of the metering credits will be earned by Gloucester Engineering, and used to cut the company’s electrical overhead, opening the gates for what Klieman said could be more jobs at the plant. He added that the city could see roughly $100,000 in reimbursement for electrical costs through the metering credits.

“We believe this will aid our competitiveness by supplying reliable, lower cost energy,” said Lloyd Rothaus, director of project management at Gloucester Engineering

Blue Wolf Capital Partners LLC pulled Gloucester Engineering from bankruptcy a few years ago, and the company’s continued, said Klieman, to add positions, most of them filled by Gloucester residents.

“If we can keep a company alive like Gloucester Engineering, that’s good planning for the city,” said Councilor Joe Ciolino, head of the council’s planning and development subcommittee.

Ciolino said that helping the company cut energy costs will keep work in the city.

The project, he said, is set for a public hearing in September. He added that councilors will visit the site, and have a helicopter hover at the proposed windmill’s height to check on visual impact for the city. The council, said Cadematori, is also conducting studies on noise, and windmill flicker. Ciolino said he expects the noise, after visiting a similar turbine in Ipswich, to be negligible.

Ward 1 Councilor Paul McGeary said he hasn’t heard of any intense neighborhood opposition to the Dory Road project.

The council, said Ciolino, approved an extension of Varian Semiconductor’s special permits for the company’s own two-turbine project.

Klieman said Gloucester Engineer’s project will help stabilize Blackburn Industrial Park’s power grid. The park’s often wracked with brownouts, mostly due to increased summer electrical demands in the city.

Two weeks ago, a three-day power outage at the industrial park caused $3,000 worth of food at caterer Classic Cooks to go bad, ruined some frozen fish at Good Harbor Fillet, and cost Varian and Gloucester Engineering thousands of dollars in lost productivity and to start up.

“Adding this in the park will stabilize electricity there, it will help Gloucester Engineering and other businesses in that area as well,” Klieman said.

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