The Swampscott Renewable Energy Committee and residents went round and round Wednesday over a wind turbine project the committee is studying.
If approved the roughly 340-foot turbine would stand on a hill above the softball field behind the Middle School. It would stand beyond left field, in line with the foul pole, and border the Tedesco Golf Course.
The project would need selectmen’s support and, if town funds are requested to help pay for it, the support of town meeting.
Earlier this year, Jonathan Markey of Meridian Associates said in a draft of the turbine study that the Middle School site was viable. Committee members hope to have the study finalized soon.
The study found there was enough wind, demand for energy and financing for it. The turbine would generate power for town uses such as schools.
Neighbors, however, argued that the project was deemed only marginally feasible and that its pitfalls outweigh its benefits.
They worry that it will be loud, unsightly and drive down property values – and they will have to live with the consequences.
Resident Chuck Comegys said it appears to him that the committee has already made up its mind that it wants the windmill.
Chairman Neal Duffy and committee member Victoria Masone said they have been forced to defend the study at turns because neighbors have consistently opposed it.
Masone said the committee isn’t defending the project, they are defending the way they are going about the study, relying on the best science and the recommendations from experts.
For instance, Committee members took an acoustical engineer’s recommendation that they visit turbine sites and listen to them.
Duffy visited a turbine in Newburyport and committee member Milton Fistel visited two sites site in Hull.
Fistel said the Hull turbines had not generated noise complaints and the town embraces their turbines.
Duffy said the Newburyport turbine was surprisingly quiet but larger than he thought it would be.
Residents pointed out that the Newburyport site was not in a neighborhood.
Resident Diana Caplan said she feels like the town goes ahead with ideas without considering the consequences.
Forest Avenue ballfields’ lights already make the neighborhood look like a shopping mall and the public address system is loud.
She worries that the residents will again be thrown under the bus for the perceived greater good.
Resident Ron Landen said the town has a restriction against communications tower heights greater than 60 feet and the turbine would stand much higher.
Ultimately, they have put up consistent opposition because they want to be sure their voices are heard, neighbors said.
Duffy said the neighbors’ voices have been heard.
The chairman expects the panel will report on the study and give their recommendation to selectmen early next year.
He sees three options.
One is to recommend it and apply for a grant to pay part of the construction and design costs, and to host public information sessions before bringing the proposal to town meeting for any local funding.
Two is to determine it is not a good idea and abandon it.
Three is to report on what the study says and continue the study by doing additional research on whether it’s a good idea to put a wind turbine in Swampscott.
The turbine study is being funded by the Massachuestts Clean Energy Center.
The Center recently submitted its review of the study.
Energy Committee members will talk about that review at their next meeting.
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