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Some residents skeptical of Madaket wind turbine

It’s crunch time for the proposed Madaket wind-turbine project.

With the 2012 Annual Town Meeting just four months away, when island voters will likely decide whether to borrow at least $3.45 million to fund the construction of the 900-kilowatt turbine, its proponents are hosting a series of public forums to educate Nantucket residents about the ambitious project.

The most recent meeting was last Thursday night, when appointed members of the Nantucket Energy Study Committee and the staff of the town energy office briefed a few dozen skeptical Madaket residents and other islanders about the proposal as it stands today.

The turbine, which would be twice the size of the 100kw model already operating at Nantucket High School, would power the town’s solid-waste facility at the landfill, including the energy-sucking compost digester that is the cornerstone of the island’s heralded recycling program. Led by selectman Whitey Willauer, the project’s proponents made their case with a PowerPoint presentation and a question-and-answer session, seizing more upon the potential economic benefits of the turbine than the environmental considerations.

The proposed 900kw turbine at the landfill could power the digester, which runs 24 hours per day, and perhaps provide electricity to other town buildings, project proponents believe, saving the town as much as $400,000 annually in utility costs with a clean, renewable energy source based on Nantucket rather than the mainland. They believe it would mitigate the possible necessity of an expensive third undersea electric cable from the mainland to Nantucket, although such a project is not in the works.

“The town spent $1.8 million last year for electricity at its facilities,” consultant George Aronson said. We’re looking at how you get that $1.8 million down.”

On the regulatory front, the wind-turbine design has already been approved by the Historic District Commission, which went as far as requiring the structure to be painted “Nantucket gray,” and the proposal is now before the Zoning Board of Appeals where proponents are seeking a variance from municipal height restrictions. The proposed turbine would rise to 325 feet at the tips of its blades, making it the tallest structure on the island.

To read the full story, check out the print edition of The Inquirer and Mirror