March 15, 2012

Saugus wind turbine study moves forward

By Mike Gaffney, Saugus Advertiser, 15 March 2012

Saugus – Anemometers are busy recording data to determine if the abandoned I-95 roadbed is a good fit for a wind turbine.

A 50-meter meteorological tower was installed Feb. 7 off Route 107 across the road from the Wheelabrator Saugus landfill. The tower features six anemometers and two wind vanes to collect wind speed data for a definitive answer on whether the stretch of land is suitable for a wind turbine.

“We need to test wind speeds for a minimum of one year,” explained Dan Guglielmi, project manager for the engineering firm CDM Smith, Inc. that is monitoring the wind speeds. “We get data e-mailed daily and we’ll do quarterly or semi-annual reports.”

The town secured an $85,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to conduct a feasibility study on the potential for a wind turbine off Route 107.

In order to receive approval to host a municipal wind turbine, a site must be owned by the town and offer minimum wind speeds of 13.5 miles per hour.

Guglielmi said the abandoned I-95 roadbed is a “promising” site for a turbine based on wind maps and previous wind speed data recorded nearby in Lynn.

But Guglielmi cautioned that a final determination won’t be made until the meteorological tower has obtained a year’s worth of data.

“I haven’t looked at the data yet, it’s still too early,” Guglielmi said.

Saugus Alternative Energy Committee Chairman Joanne Vannah noted that the committee still hopes to erect three wind turbines in order to increase the probability of generating the most revenue for the town.

“However, that will be completely dependent on the feasibility study, which includes business/financial planning, as well as sufficient wind speeds,” Vannah wrote in an e-mail.

Vannah said the feasibility study will examine three sizes of turbines, the largest of which is estimated to generate up to 3,500,000 kWh/year.

According to Vannah the town averages using 6,000,000 kWH/year, so in theory two turbines could eliminate all of the town’s electrical costs and still leave a surplus.

Any excess generated from the wind turbines could also be credited to a future energy bill, or sold to National Grid or another community, Vannah pointed out.

The Alternative Energy Committee will meet on Wednesday, April 25 at 7 p.m. at the Italian American Club for a forum to update the public on the wind turbine feasibility study.

“The public forum is another opportunity for people in the community to learn more about the project and voice questions,” Vannah explained in an e-mail. “I have learned a great deal from speaking to other communities that have worked on similar projects and believe it is very valuable to keep the public informed. I am confident that given the appropriate information, most will support the project. It is not only a chance to promote cleaner energy, but a much needed opportunity to generate revenue for the town.”

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