January 27, 2012

Wind Committee repeats to the board: “we’re not going forward”

By Charlene Arsenault, Northborough Patch, northborough.patch.com 26 January 2012

In an encore performance, the Wind Committee presented its findings from a long-term wind turbine feasibility study to the Board of Selectmen on Monday night.

Northbrough Patch has reported on the findings since they were released, and the Wind Committee’s presentation to the board didn’t waver from its initial determination. That is, Northborough’s not ideal for a wind turbine, and the Wind Committee’s not going forth with further wind studies, or the project.

Wind Committee member Dick Jones gave a PowerPoint presentation detailing the findings. According to 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.

Working from an $85,000 grant provided to the town by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MCEC), SED studied six proposed sites, including Mt. Pisgah, Tougas Farm and a piece of land owned by the New England Forestry Foundation. The town wanted to study the possibility of powering municipal buildings; Northborough incurs a bill of $900,000 to a million dollars a year in electricity.

The result showed that only Mt. Pisgah generated enough wind to justify a turbine, but extraneous costs (such as building an access road), as well as the lengthy payback time, deemed it an unwise risk at this time.

“The payback was way above what we thought it would be,” said Jones. “You can’t justify a 15-year payback with a project of this size. One of the big deals that drove the cost was the connection to National Grid. It was well above our initial expectations. We were hoping for four- to six-year payback. Our recommendation is to discontinue efforts to develop a community wind project, but focus on other alternative energy.”

The study brought continued opposition from residents (particularly those close to the proposed sites) from the get-go, with people voicing concern about the possible use of taxpayer money, scheduled meetings that never took place, and a lack of response to questions sent to committee members.

The Wind Committee, which included representation from Joseph McNamara and Bob Giles, stressed that it continued with the study to do just that: study the feasibility. When it concluded it was not feasible, the committee presented the findings, and reminded the town that no tax dollars were used (a grant solicited by the committee was used to fund the study).

“I don’t think anybody went into this with preconceived notions,” said Board Chairman Jeff Amberson. “If you did, you could skew the data to make it say what you needed to say. You kept an open mind and waited for the results and made valid conclusions. It was a great effort.”

Board members and Town Administrator John Coderre commended the committee for its thorough diligence and organization, and urged members to consider joining other committees and boards in town.

“We regularly get folks coming forward looking at projects like this,” said Coderre, “and more often than not, it winds up being the staff doing the heavy lifting. It was refreshing to see you folks come along and do the heavy lifting and deliver a final product. This is the exactly the way a project is supposed to come forth from citizens. The thing that impressed me the most was the level of professional discourse.”

URL to article:  https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/01/27/wind-committee-repeats-to-the-board-were-not-going-forward/