PLYMOUTH – A proposal to site a wind turbine beside the new Plymouth North High School is not sitting well with most neighbors.
Several long-time residents turned out to pan the proposal at a recent presentation by school officials.
Residents who have lived in the neighborhood for decades questioned both the noise and shadow effect of the whirling blades, saying the turbine would lower their property values.
But one younger neighbor who has first-hand experience with a turbine at his college campus wondered at all the fuss and said he thinks building a turbine would be a good idea.
School officials are exploring the possibility of erecting a wind turbine on what will be the new school ball fields, a grassy stretch where the current school parking lot meets the front of the existing school.
The area will become baseball and softball fields after the new school is completed and the existing school is demolished next year.
Atlantic Design Engineers of Sandwich has conducted a preliminary study, looking at three different-sized turbines. The smallest would rise 40 meters or about 130 feet. The largest would stretch to 75 meters or nearly 250 feet.
The largest option would just meet zoning setback requirements. It would also cast the longest shadow and create the loudest swoosh as the wind spins its blades.
Earlier studies at the nearby county farm showed the area is windy enough to support a turbine. But according to Atlantic’s preliminary review, the wind blows significantly stronger at the higher altitude.
None of the turbines would generate enough electricity to power the new school, but the 75-meter option would come close.
Ratings suggest a 75-meter turbine could generate 2,124,000 kilowatt hours per year. By contrast, a 40-meter turbine would generate 313,000 kWhrs annually.
The new school’s annual electric consumption is estimated at 2,568,129 kWhrs.
The turbine would be entirely funded by the town, but its existence could lead to an increase in the reimbursement rate the state is paying for the school, provided it makes the building a greener project. Atlantic has not yet prepared any cost estimates.
The School Committee must ultimately decide if it wants to pursue a turbine, but the board remains more concerned about being a good neighbor than jumping to any decision.
According to Superintendent Gary Maestas, no permitting work has been started and the proposal remains just that – a concept.
Several residents nevertheless voiced real concerns after the School Committee opened the floor to comment at last Monday’s presentation.
Richard Tavares, a Nook Road resident of 46 years, said the noise alone would prevent him from opening his windows in the summer.
Tavares said he has visited several turbines already in operation in the region and returned with some rather vivid comparisons to what he saw and heard.
“Like a sneaker tumbling in a dryer, a train that never reaches the station, a cement mixer in the sky. The impact is not benign,” Tavares said.
He noted that in addition to neighboring residences, the area is home to hundreds of people living in nursing homes, assisted living facilities and the nearby hospital.
“Talk about impacting the neighborhood,” Tavares said. “We put up with the noise, the dust, the smells and the vibrations, and we still have another year to go. No thank you, we’re not interested.”
David Tarantino, who lives at Wellingsley Avenue and Overlook Road, said neighbors have put up with the dust and noise of new construction because it will give the town a needed new school. But the turbine is not necessary, he said.
Tarantino cautioned the School Committee to tread carefully until it can determine the actual costs. He called on school officials to erect at most a little turbine that students could use for their studies. Any cost-saving project could be constructed in parts of town where it wouldn’t impact neighbors. “Don’t rush in…don’t insult the neighbors who vote for you and pay taxes,” Tarantino said.
Lynn Govoni, also of Overlook Road, begged the committee to give the matter plenty of thought.
A lot of people couldn’t attend the presentation, Govoni said, because they are in nursing homes, but a lot of people don’t want to see it. “It doesn’t belong in Plymouth,” she said.
But not everyone is against the proposal – not even everyone on Overlook Road.
Myles Ramey, a junior at Massachusetts Maritime Academy and an Overlook Road resident, said the 47-meter blade at his college supplies a third of the school’s electricity and it doesn’t affect his lifestyle whatsoever.
The turbine is located 50 yards from classrooms and noise is never an issue, he said.
“As someone who lived next to one the last two years, I just think it’s not that big of an impact. I think it’s personally a good idea to build one,” Ramey said.
The School Committee is expected to continue looking into the proposal next year as the new school opens and the old school comes down.