According to preliminary studies performed by Sustainable Energy Developments, proposed sites for a wind turbine in Northborough would take 10 to 15 years to yield any return on capital investment.
The source of much debate in town, the sustainability study’s returns were, “not terrible, but not great,” according to Matt Vanderbrook, project manager for Sustainable Energy Developments.
With an $85,000 grant from Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC), Sustainable Energy Developments out of Ontario, NY, studied data collected from proposed sites in Northborough that are considered suitable for a wind turbine.
After a preliminary assessment three years ago, the town approved of the idea to study the feasibility of erecting a wind turbine in town, putting the study out to bid.
Centered around six proposed opportunities—Tougas Family Farm (two sites), Davidian Brothers Farm, Boylston Exclusionary Parcel, Northborough Exclusionary Parcel and Mt. Pisgah (two sites)—Sustainable Energy Developments, contracted by the town, began studies last May to determine the wind measurements of the locations with a MET tower.
The tower, a 50-meter tubular tower with sensors that collect wind data at different heights, sat at Tougas Farm for a year.
“That’s the best way to collect on site data,” said Vanderbrook.” Essentally, that data helps us identify the best locations in the area. Once it is collected, we send it to another company taht basically forms a long-term correlation. They have a huge database resource and they compare what was collected on the site and decide the long-term correlation. Just because there is a certain wind speed this year, doesn’t mean it’s the same the next, for instance.”
All, it concluded, allow for a technically viable development option, with various obstacles on each. Read the 49-page study here.
The wind speeds collected at Mt. Pisgah proved to be “lower than what was expected,” said Vanderbrook,” and the other locations were significantly lower, Tougas specifically. And the Pisgah site presents issues because of acessibility, as well as being a conservation area. There was hesitation from the town to present a project there.”
With some of the grant money still untapped, Vanderbrook said the study was not considered a “full-blown feasibility study,” but rather an initial assessment to present questions and possibilities to the town. He estimates that about 50 percent of the analysis is done on the study.
“We outlined six possibilities,” said Vanderbrook, “and a lot of factors need to be weighed more by the town and the Wind Committee.”
Fred Litchfield, town engineer, or Bob Giles, co-chair of the Wind Committee, both declined to comment to Northborough Patch on the study, but said that Sustainable Energy Developments will be discussing the study on Jan. 11 at 7 p.m. at the Wind Committee meeting in the Selectman’s Meeting Room, Town Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
Jonathan West, who lives on Green Street, which abuts Tougas Farm, is an outspoken opponent of the wind turbine proposal.
“I think it’s telling that the Wind Committee used the Mount Pisgah site data—eight pages worth, including aerial maps showing setbacks of 1950 feet,” said West, “on the feasibility grant application, but apparently with no intention of following through with the Mount Pisgah site. If that had not been the case, I doubt the grant would have been awarded in the first place due to the narrow setbacks of 850 feet in residential areas.”
“At the end, we say to the town, ‘here are the scenarios,’ said Vanderbrook. “It’s one of those things that the town can pursue, but if it has a 15-year payback, it isn’t something they might want to do, but it isn’t up to us. It ranges from 10 to 15 years for it to be economically viable, but we’ve seen towns say they like that and like the long-term hedge on electricity prices. We try to be very practical and conservative in our assessment.”
Giles had originally told The Boston Globe in 2009, that “constructing the wind turbine could cost $2.5 million, but it could pay for itself within five to seven years.”
If a site is identified, said Vanderbrook, various financing options are looked at to fund the project, including ownership by the town (the taxpayers), or under certain conditions a third party can purchase the project and sell the power to the town at competitive rates.
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