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Energy Committee recommends against wind turbine site

WESTPORT – The Westport Energy Committee told Selectmen Monday night that they would not be recommending that the town pursue the installation of a commercial-sized wind turbine on a site behind the fire station at 54 Hix Bridge Road.

The committee presented a 71-page summary of the feasibility study conducted by Atlantic Design Engineering which indicated that a small turbine would not generate enough revenue to pay for itself, while a larger turbine at that location would have too great a negative impact on the neighborhood.

Inadequate setbacks, public opposition, and potential noise, flicker and visual concerns all make the town forest land “not suitable for a utility scale wind turbine,” said Energy Committee Chairman Antone Vieira, Jr., who is the Board of Selectmen’s delegate to the committee.

The Energy Committee received three petitions opposing the location from hundreds of residents and parishioners at St. John the Baptist Church at last month’s public hearing on the feasibility study.

Vieira indicated the Energy Committee, which recently voted 5-0 not to recommend the 54 Hix Bridge Road property, would now begin exploring other potential sites for a municipal turbine, including the nearby capped landfill.

While the Energy Committee has considered other possible sites in town in the past, including the landfill, those other locations were not “seriously studied,” suggested member Ed Goldberg.

The landfill on Hix Bridge Road is being eyed as a potential location for a solar energy farm, with the town prepared to issue a Request for Proposals (RFPs) for private companies to lease a portion of the site for a solar panel installation on Dec. 21, interim Town Administrator Jack Healey reported. The deadline for submitting RFPs will be Feb. 4, he said.

Chairman of Selectmen Richard Spirlet is optimistic about a solar array being built at the landfill, suggesting the chance to buy energy at a discount and collect taxes on the array would be “a win-win for us.”

Also coming up on the Energy Committee agenda will be a possible net metering agreement with EMI Solar Systems for the town to buy up to one megawatt of power per year from the 50-acre solar energy farm EMI is building in North Dartmouth. Dartmouth officials recently signed a similar agreement to purchase six megawatts of power per year from the project.

EMI representative Jack Arruda told selectmen the company was willing to install additional solar panels on available land at the Dartmouth site to accommodate Westport’s needs if an agreement could be reached. He also indicated the company might be interested in submitting a proposal for a solar installation at the Westport landfill.

Selectmen met in executive session earlier Monday evening with special counsel Attorney Richard Holland for an update on the EMI negotiations. The attorney indicated an agreement was “very close” to being completed, with a few details remaining to be worked out.

Atty. Holland indicated the net metering agreement would assign power generated by the solar farm to be “credited” to Westport’s utility bills from NSTAR.

Healey said the proposed 20-year contract with EMI “could save us about 10 percent of our annual electric bill.” The town uses almost two megawatts of power for its municipal buildings each year, it was noted.