November 30, 2011

Turbine II churns ahead in Ipswich

By Sally Kuhn, GateHouse News, Service, 30 November 2011

Ipswich – Wind Turbine II is getting closer to coming on line as two of the four major steps necessary to get the blades whirling have been completed.

The four major steps are:

· Obtaining special permits from both the Planning Board and the Board of Selectmen

· Reaching a purchase price agreement for the electricity the turbine would generate

· A Town Meeting vote to authorize the Selectmen to enter into a lease agreement for town-owned property on 180 Town Farm Road.

A Town Meeting Nov. 14 gave the Selectmen the power to authorize the lease and the Selectmen granted their special permit last Monday.

D&C Construction, the Rockland company that proposes to erect a wind turbine near Wind Turbine I, has offered a new purchase power agreement.

The Electric Light Subcommittee will vote on the offer at their meeting on Dec. 7.

The agreement matches the sub committee’s criteria that the price for power from Wind Turbine II be the same or lower than the cost of power generated by Turbine I.

The latest offer proposes selling power to the town for $116 per megawatt hour or 11.6 a kilowatt-hour for the next 10 years. For the second 10 years, it will charge 70 cents a megawatt hour, or 7 cents a kilowatt-hour. That averages to 9.3 a kilowatt-hour, which is less than the 10.3 cents per kilowatt-hour Turbine I now charges.

Last Monday night, the Selectmen, in their role as Electric Light Commissioners, voted unanimously to allow D&C Construction a special permit to manage or operate a wind turbine at 180 Town Farm Road. However, in case the project doesn’t get off the ground, the permit terminates on Jan. 1.

The Planning Board will vote on issuing D &C a special permit at its next meeting on Dec. 8.

Although a vote hasn’t been taken, the Board has asked the Planning Department to draw up the permit along with conditions for the board to sign.

At last Monday’s hearing on the Selectmen’s special permit, Joni Soffron, County Road, said the process was “way too rushed.” She was confused, she said, because at special Town Meeting, residents heard that the Electric Light subcommittee turned down D &C’s first purchase power offer. The company wasn’t expected to make another offer. At the meeting, residents were simply asked to vote on whether or not they wanted to erect another wind turbine in Ipswich.

The new purchase power price had “just materialized since Town Meeting,” said Jim Engel, an Electric Light Sub Commissioner. Things were starting to fall into place, he said.

“Shouldn’t the board know what the deal is first before granting the permit?” Selectman William Craft asked.

Finance Committee member Richard Howard said there had not been adequate time to discuss D&C’s offer.

Engel said the board should condition its Special Permit to make it null and void if no purchase power agreement is reached by Jan. 1.

D&C Construction must buy a turbine by Jan. 1 in order to get a government grant.

Engel said that the four steps had to be completed by Jan. 1, but not in any particular order. But, he said, if the Selectmen wait until after the Planning Board votes or a price agreement is reached, the process becomes a lot more hurried. “It creates a bow wave for things that have to happen before Jan. 1,” he said. The holiday season is not a good time of year to get the focus of the boards, he said.

Engel explained why the Board of Selectmen had to issue a special permit. About six years ago, he said the zoning bylaw was modified to allow a private entity to operate a private solar company in Ipswich as long as it sells its power to the Ipswich Municipal Light Department, which is, by state statute, a monopoly. The Electric Light Commissioners, or the Board of Selectmen must authorize the company to sell power to Ipswich.

Selectman Pat McNally ran the special permit hearing because as a former Chairman of the Planning Board he understood the process. This was the first special permit given by the Selectmen. He asked Engel if he had any opinion on whether D&C should be allowed to erect the turbine. Engel said, Hyundai, the maker of the turbine, will play a role in overseeing the management of the project to make sure the turbine meets their requirements. “Their reputation is very important to them,” he said.

The selectmen voted unanimously that Wind Turbine II met the requirements for a special permit.

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