Saugus – If one Town Meeting member has anything to say about it, the Saugus Alternative Energy Committee’s pursuit of the viability of wind energy will immediately come to an end – though the committee’s chairman says that ongoing research on the subject is just part of the group’s mission.
Peter Manoogian, a Town Meeting member from Precinct 10, filed an article for annual Town Meeting that, if passed, would prevent the Saugus Alternative Energy Committee (SAEC) from continuing their efforts at examining the prospect of bringing wind turbines to town.
Manoogian’s article seeks to revise Article 16 of the annual Town Meeting in 2007 by renaming the Wind Power Study Committee as the Alternative Energy Committee.
The article also stipulates to add the following statement to that group’s purpose:
“Said committee is authorized to study and report on all forms of alternative energy except for wind power. Said committee will not be authorized to recommend vendors, studies, apply for permits or seek grants that will result in the placement of wind turbines on town property or within the Area of Critical Environmental Concern. Any activities, commitments, and applications described above shall be reported to the town manager within 30 days, so that the town may take whatever steps necessary to disengage from such commitments.”
In 2012, Town Meeting members voted to have Article 46, which sought a zoning change to potentially place wind turbines near Rumney Marsh, referred to the Board of Health over concerns for citizens’ well being. If the zoning modification had been approved, industrial turbines up to 400 feet tall would have been permitted for placement in non-residential districts.
On Jan. 18, an application was filed seeking guidance from the Federal Aviation Administration on the placement of turbine equipment by engineering contractor firm CDM Smith, though local energy committee officials later stated that such an action was merely a portion of an ongoing feasibility study.
Manoogian is firm in his belief that wind turbines are the last things that should be coming to Saugus.
“These turbines have resulted in major economic and health issues (elsewhere),” said Manoogian. “People have spent money going to court to get these things removed. You don’t want to site them near residential areas.”
For that reason Manoogian expressed concern that the SAEC continues to move forward with exploring the feasibility of wind turbines in Saugus.
“If they want to study it on their own time, that’s fine,” Manoogian said. “But Saugus is not suitable for this type of nuisance.”
Manoogian also explained that the Princeton Municipal Light Department in Massachsuetts doubled the rates they charge their customers for electricity, due to wind turbines breaking down and performing poorly.
“Even if they were free, there is a documented impact from turbines on public health,” Manoogian said.
Manoogian previously asserted that health problems occur to individuals living in close proximity to wind turbines, including loss of sleep, fatigue, mood differentiation, hypertension and equilibrium issues. He pointed to Duxbury as a community that has halted progress in implementing wind power until the potential impacts on human health are fully understood.
“As Duxbury did, we should refocus our energy, pardon the pun, on solar or perhaps conservation instead,” Manoogian said.
Manoogian said some people see Saugus’s marshes as “their experimental area, their pet project,” noting that the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center is “searching” for locations to place wind turbines throughout the state.
“They’re looking for suckers,” he said. “Saugus isn’t going to be a sucker if I have anything to do with it. I want to pull the plug on this committee’s march towards wind.”
Saugus Alternative Energy Committee Chairman Joanne Vannah says that she appreciates everything Manoogian has done for the town of Saugus, though she disagrees with his assessment.
“I do believe that his actions are motivated by what he believes are in the best interests of the community,” said Vannah. “Because of that, I welcome his thoughts.”
Vannah told the Advertiser the SAEC was formed by Town Meeting in June 2007 – under the original moniker of the “Wind Power Study Committee”, before later adopting its current name in order to include other energy sources – with the refined mission of researching and gathering information on renewable energy platforms for the town.
Their purpose was twofold, Vannah said, to provide cleaner energy for the town and to reduce electrical costs/produce revenue.
Vannah said Manoogian’s article to stop the SAEC from exploring wind energy “seems a bit ironic” based on the history of the committee.
“Similar to how restricting renewable energy to just wind compromises opportunities, so does removing these options,” said Vannah. “Has the SAEC reached the goals set in 2007 which the committee has continued to strive towards? That would simply be the exploration of renewable energy. At present we are exploring wind, including microturbines, and solar.”
Vannah said several options have been explored for the implementation of solar energy, including the placement of panels at the closed landfill behind the Department of Public Works building on Main Street.
“Several organizations have worked closely with the SAEC, including SolSolutions, over the past year to evaluate the potential energy savings for the schools through solar power,” said Vannah.
In June 2011 the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center awarded an $85,000 grant to the SAEC to conduct a feasibility study – which consisted of placing a meteorological tower in the abandoned I-95 roadbed area off Route 107 – to see if it was ideal for the placement of wind turbines.
Due to permitting issues, the tower was not erected until Feb. 7, 2012, and the last data collection for wind speeds was entered on Feb. 6 of this year. Per the conditions of the feasibility study, at least one year’s worth of meteorological data needed to be collected.
“Recently, unnecessary attention was brought to the town by a misunderstanding of an FAA application that was submitted by CDM Smith, the engineering contractors for the study,” Vannah explained. “This is simply part of the feasibility study, which requires an evaluation of the height restrictions due to the proximity of the airport.”
Vannah said the feasibility study being conducted has measured wind speeds, financial planning, shadow flicker, acoustics and environmental impact, including that upon the avian population. She thanked Saugus River Watershed Council Executive Director Joan LeBlanc for her assistance in providing that last bit of information.
“LeBlanc was tremendously resourceful with supplying the committee contact information for personnel knowledgeable about the avian population in the Rumney Marsh area,” said Vannah. “Although a Phase I avian study was conducted, gathering additional data was proven to be very helpful.”
Vannah labeled the feasibility study as “still ongoing” and noted that rough draft results are expected from it by this summer.
“The decision to pursue the project or not is in the hands of the town officials and the town citizens they represent,” Vannah said. “To halt this project now would be a great financial and scientific loss for the town, especially after so many years of work. The goal is to obtain as much data as possible during this study to assess the feasibility for turbines at any point in the future.”
Vannah explained that for the past year, in addition to the feasibility study, more effort has gone into pursuing the merits of solar energy, due in part to information from other communities’ experience with large-scale wind turbines and the problems associated with them.
“This information will be presented at the next public forum, which will take place once the feasibility study has been completed,” said Vannah. “However, I do want to note, the problems (experienced by other communities) appear to be associated with industrial-size turbines, 1mW or greater, only. Therefore, to eliminate wind power altogether seems rather foolhardy.”
Vannah added that smaller-size turbines at a size of 10 kW (kilowatts) are an option also being explored, since some residents expressed interest in the placement of rooftop turbines.
“We have also researched various forms of turbines that produce tremendously less sound, besides the commonly-seen horizontal axis variety with three blades and high productivity, there are vertical axis, hybrids and even bladeless turbines,” said Vannah. “I anticipate the technology will dramatically advance moving forward and think it would be highly impractical not to acknowledge the need and the demand for industry improvements. There are tremendous tax credits (15% state, 30% federal) and tax rebates (30-50%) on renewable energy.”
Vannah said that in the end, the town government and citizens of Saugus would ultimately decide which route is the best way to go for its renewable energy.
“The decision of which energy type to pursue, wind or solar, lies within the town officials and town citizens,” said Vannah. “Any reaction to anything the SAEC has done or continues to do is simply an overreaction.”
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