Ipswich – The Board of Selectman can now proceed with leasing land for a second wind turbine at the end of Town Farm Road.
Town Meeting voted to give the selectmen the power to enter into a land-lease agreement with a company that would build and maintain Turbine 2 and sell the electricity to the Ipswich Utilities Department last night, Monday, Nov. 14.
Technically, the vote merely allows the Board of Selectmen to enter into a lease agreement for the land and is only one step toward building a second turbine. The Planning Board must still approve permits for any turbine. In addition the Board of Selectmen must negotiate a contract with the company that would build and maintain the contract.
However, Finance Committee member Jamie Fay, speaking for the article, said, “This vote has become a referendum on the project and that’s OK.”
The selectmen, through the Electric Light Commission, has been negotiating with D&C Construction on contract, but have yet to settle on a price for the electricity Turbine 2 would generate.
The measure required only a simple majority, but the 231 to 91 vote gave it even more than a two-thirds majority.
Debate on the measure continued for almost two and a half hours.
Proponents argued Turbine 2 would give Ipswich a clean-energy, stable electricity source at a fixed price for the next 20 to 25 years, and said the Board of Selectmen and the Electric Light Commission were capable of negotiating a favorable price for the electricity Turbine 2 would generate.
Opponents argued Town Meeting didn’t have enough information on a contract that would set the price of the electricity Turbine 2 would generate and argued the turbine would bring down property values within a two-mile radius of the turbine – one Northridge Road resident said the value of her home had recently dropped by $75,000.
However Mill Road resident David Feldman, a real estate appraisal executive, said the studies for and against wind turbines and their affects on property values were inconclusive.
“If there is an effect, it’s pretty much a minimal effect,” said Feldman.
Stage Hill Road resident Eric Krathwhol argued the town needed to move forward with the chance to lease the land for turbine and go forward with a contract because federal tax breaks were expiring as of Dec. 31.
Jim Engel of the Electric Light Commission noted the turbine would bring in $1 million in new taxes over its 20-year life span during a 30-minute presentation he made to start the debate, $78,000 in the first year.
Finance Committee member Richard Howard spoke against the article, saying Town Meeting didn’t have enough information to give the Board of Selectmen the power to enter into the land lease.
“I support alternative energy,” said Howard. “I have solar panels on my house. I think Wind 1 is a work of art. I would support Wind 2 or Wind 3, but we aren’t ready. We’d like to know what the price will be before we enter into an agreement.”
The FinCom voted 6-2 in favor of the turbine article and the Board of Selectmen and the School Committee both supported the article unanimously.
“The financial performance of Wind 2 should be equal to or better than Wind 1,” said Engel in his presentation.
Wind 1 has been in operation since the middle of May and supplies electricity to the Ipswich High/Middle School and to the Ipswich Utilities Department and Engel said the first turbine had been producing at or above expectations.
Engel said alternative energy would be more expensive than the average per kilowatt-hour price Ipswich pays for electricity of 9.2 cents. Wind 1 produces electricity at 10.5 cents per kilowatt-hour.
“There is only one entity in the state that provides electricity for less than Ipswich,” said Engel, who stressed the importance of having a stable, fixed price for electricity for the next 20 years and pointed to the potential volatility of fossil fuel prices.
In context of the entire Ipswich energy supply portfolio that includes fossil fuels, hydropower, nuclear power and wind-generated electricity, Wind 2 would provide about 2 percent of the town’s electricity needs.
Darius Gaskins of County Road spoke against the article, arguing new domestic natural gas sources would keep fossil fuel prices low for the foreseeable future.
“This is a tool they need to fulfill the agenda we’ve set for them,’ said Linebrook Road resident Heidi Paek, referencing the Board of Selectmen.
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