Shelburne wind farm would power 6,000 homes; Plans say Mt. Massaemet project includes eight 420-foot turbines
SHELBURNE – A former Shelburne man’s plan for a commercial, eight-turbine wind farm on a Shelburne Center ridge, he says, would provide enough electricity for 6,000 homes.
Frederick “Don” Field Jr. discussed preliminary plans with the Zoning Board of Appeals this week. The meeting was for Field to find out what approvals would be required to build.
Field, who lives in Littleton, said the $40 million project would generate about 52,500 megawatt-hours of electricity per year. He said the wind turbines – which would measure 420 feet “from the top of the blade to the ground” – would offset about 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide and the use of 1.2 million barrels of oil. Field said he is still looking for investors and has not yet filed any applications for the project.
“It’s a big project,” said Field, “and it’s a long way before you dig the first shovelful.”
Two years ago, he formed Mount Massaemet Windfarm Inc., a corporation that he describes as “a privately owned clean-energy company whose sole goal is to own and operate a wind power facility on the ridge line of Mount Massaemet …”
Field told the Zoning Board of Appeals on Thursday night that a solar-powered Triton Sonic Wind Profiler has been gathering wind data near the 87-foot-tall fire tower on Mount Massaemet since December and transmitting it to the Wind Energy Center at the University of Massachusetts.
“Primary evaluation indicates that there is an adequate wind resource at this site for a commercial wind-generated electric project,” he said.
Field provided a topographical map showing a line of turbines hat would be situated to the east of the stone fire tower, on land owned by several Shelburne Center families: his own farmland and on sections of land he proposes to lease from the Goulds, the Davenports and the Doles.
Access to the site would be by way of the Davenport Maple Farm, on Tower Road, off the Mohawk Trail.
Field told the ZBA, and about 30 to 40 people at the meeting, that the turbines would be built in a north-to-south line, to catch maximum wind current. They would be placed about 200 feet below the ridge line, which is about 1,594 feet tall at the highest point.
He said the turbines would be built over a 600-acre section, with a temporary road to be constructed through George Dole’s property to be used for transporting components during construction.
“It’s very clear that this project doesn’t even come close to meeting our zoning,” said ZBA member Theodore Merrill.
But Field replied he had read the town’s zoning bylaws “inside and out,” and that they allow for commercial electricity-producing facilities.
“– with a special permit,” added ZBA Chairman Joseph Palmeri.
The town does not ave any specific bylaws concerning wind turbine siting.
Mark Donohoe of Acton Survey & Engineering said he thought the project would need two special permit: one for electricity generation and one for putting up a structure taller than 35 feet.
Merrill thought the project would then require 16 special permits: two for each turbine.
Field later questioned whether the town’s bylaw, requiring a special permit for “building” over 35 feet tall would apply to the turbines, which are “structures.”
Palmeri and ZBA member John Taylor questioned whether the project would need frontage. “The Zoning Board’s angle is we’re looking at structures on land where there is no road frontage,” said Palmeri.
Field said he would be leasing the land form property owners who have frontage.
When asked how the project would benefit Shelburne, Field said it would add about $40 million worth of property valuation to the town’s tax rolls. He said he was not looking for a tax abatement on the development. He said the power would go directly into the grid.
Field said the project will require state and federal permits, “but your permit is the most important,” he said.
The ZBA recommended that Field prepare simulations of how the towers will look from various vantage points and towns. Palmeri said the ZBA will also be asking Field for money for an independent engineer to evaluate the project for the town, and money for legal advice.
“People are going to want to know the effect on their property values and the tax impact,” said Taylor.
“Is this going to be a nonprofit?” asked Palmeri. “If there’s not enough financial stability, and everyone walks away from this, what’s the town going to do (with the structures)?”
ZBA members suggested that Field talk to Building Inspector James Hawkins, of the Franklin Cooperative Building Inspection Program. They also suggested he contact the Board of Selectmen and Planning Board, to let them know of his plans.
When the meeting began, residents were told that the meeting was no a public hearing, and that Field had not yet applied for a special permit. Field, however, frequently asked the audience if there were questions. He distributed an information sheet about his project and said that updates would be posted on his website:
He said people could e-mail him questions, and he would try to answer them. The e-mail contact is on the website.
When asked after the meeting when he plans to start applying for permits, Field said, “There’s a lot of work to be done yet. We can’t tell.”
Field grew up in Shelburne and owns 81 acres, with frontage on Route 2.
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