SAUGUS – A feasibility study is under way in Saugus to see if the area off of Route 107 is suitable for wind turbines, five months after the Conservation Commission approved a 164-foot meteorological tower.
The tower, which is part of an $85,000 feasibility grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, will test wind speeds in the area for at least one year, according to Dan Guglielmi, project manager for engineering firm CDM Smith.
“We get daily e-mails with the data, however, there’s no need to look at it every single day except to make sure the power is working,” said Guglielmi. “We typically do quarterly or semi-annual reports. Right now it’s a little too soon to start seeing anything.”
Guglielmi said a minimum average wind speed of 13 mph annually is needed for the area to be suitable for a turbine.
“You obviously would rather have higher wind speeds,” said Guglielmi. “The more wind the more power you get from one of these turbines.”
Heading north on Route 107, the tower is located on the left just before Wheelabrator about 50 yards from the highway.
Kate Plourd, of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, said the feasibility study looks at more than just wind speeds.
“It’s basically doing an investigation of a number of issues that would determine whether or not a project is feasible,” Plourd said. “That includes wind-energy resources, technology and infrastructure requirements and environmental and permitting issues.”
She also said community impacts are looked at like shadow flicker, an effect created by the sun setting behind a rotating turbine which can be a nuisance for people who live nearby.
Guglielmi said the tower took two days to install and features a solar-powered modem connected to a data logger and anemometers. If the area proves suitable, Guglielmi said the next step would be to move forward with the design process.
“There would be a large public process to allow the people in the area to know what we’re doing so they can have their input,” said Guglielmi. “Some of these things don’t get the best press these days. We want to make sure everybody is informed ahead of time before we get into the construction process.”
Stephen Rich of the Saugus Alternative Energy Committee, said the group is looking to install one turbine for now, and “a couple” more if everything works out. If it does, Rich said it will be a big benefit for the town.
“It would go back into the payments that the town makes to the utility,” said Rich. “Obviously it’s green power and anything we can do to reduce the burden on the taxpayers I think is something we should pursue.”
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