People that know me would tell you that I am passionate about the environment. I’ve read a lot about the industrial wind turbine project in Fairhaven and we, as a community, know a lot more than we knew five years ago. It is absolutely not prudent to install that much power 400 feet in the air, 900 feet from a residential neighborhood, and just a stone’s throw from a public bicycle path.
It’s not safe, not necessary, and represents a liability the town just does not need. The town should be looking at safe alternatives that would accomplish the same goals.
Solar photovoltaics or “PV” for short is one such alternative. PV is a method of generating electrical power by converting solar radiation directly into electricity. This technology has proven to be very safe and very reliable.
Five years ago during a wind turbine information session, I asked the Select Board if they would consider PV as an alternative to wind. Their response was “that technology does not work well in our area.” Well, it most certainly does work in our area. Our family did our own research and, in February of 2009 we installed a PV system on our roof. In three years, our PV system has produced more electricity than our family of six has consumed. We’re not alone. Thousands of systems have been installed in Massachusetts, on homes, on office buildings, on factories and on schools.
Massachusetts Clean Energy Center reports that there are 67 megawatts (MW) of solar installed in the state compared to 44 MW for wind and the state has set a goal of installing 400MW of PV by 2018. Solar does not come with any concerns for noise, infrasound, pressure pulsing, shadow flicker, ice build-up, catastrophic mechanical failure, etc.
One of the largest solar PV development projects in the state is located right in the New Bedford Industrial Park. It is a 1.9 MW system. A number of other systems, similar in scale will be up and running in 2012. More than 40 cities and towns all across the state have jumped on the solar bandwagon too, each one having submitted applications with their local utility to tie in such PV projects on a municipal level.
New Bedford signed on for 10 MW of PV. Fairhaven turbines are 1.5 MW each. Dartmouth decided industrial wind turbines were not for them and moved toward PV.
Solar PV is not entirely new to Fairhaven. The prior BPW chairmen installed several small-scale solar PV systems on BPW buildings just last year. Most people do not even know they are up and running, despite the fact that they are located at the BPW buildings on Arsene Street and on West Island.
If you are still concerned that wind won’t get off the ground without our help in Fairhaven, don’t be. Cape Wind and NSTAR have combined contracts in place to build 529 MW of wind. That is an average of 1.5 MW per city or town in Massachusetts. Not one of them will be sited within 900 feet of a residential neighborhood.
Another alternative we need to consider is conservation. While we may not have the open space required for wind, we do have another resource that is equally important – people. There is tremendous power in numbers and it is fundamentally important in a movement as epic as saving our environment for future generations that every person does their part or we will never stem the tide.
I urge every single person weighing in on this issue, whether you are for or against the wind turbines, whether you are from Fairhaven or from another local town, to take the South Coast Energy Challenge at http://southcoastenergychallenge.org.
It is easy for the average person to save 10 percent especially with some of the incredible incentives currently available. If we all did, we could collectively surpass the amount of environmental benefit of the two wind turbines. The developer estimates $200,000 in annual revenues from the turbines. That is about $25 annually per household. You most certainly can find that in energy savings in your own home – immediately. Making the pledge would be a great New Year’s resolution.
Whether we generate electricity from the wind, or we simply consume less, haven’t we accomplished the same thing? Consume less and build your own renewable project at home. Doing so is more environmentally friendly than building new generation of any sort. Building consumes resources.
There is no reason that the town of Fairhaven can’t just slow down, switch gears and move in a safer direction. It is the right thing to do and I think those responsible for the wind project in Fairhaven know that, deep inside. It’s not too late.