FALL RIVER – Bristol Community College has scrapped a proposed campus wind turbine project due to changing “best practices” in turbine construction and is exploring alternative uses for a $600,000 state grant it received to build the machine.
“The law was on our side, but we felt it wasn’t the right thing to do,” college spokeswoman Sally Chapman Cameron said Friday.
The college expected to pay $3.2 million for the 250-foot turbine, with about 20 percent being covered by the Department of Energy Resources grant and the rest coming from the state’s Clean Energy Investment program. That program provides low-interest bonds that are then paid for through energy savings.
Bids had already gone out for the turbine and potential contractors have been notified that the project will no longer go forward, Cameron said. The project – slated to begin last spring or this summer – did not appear to be behind schedule, she added.
The Energy Resources Department and BCC decided that the turbine project was “not in the best interest of the commonwealth” because of new “best practices” that recommend turbines be 1,000 feet from the nearest residence. BCC’s turbine was 965 feet from the nearest residence, said Cameron, who said she did not know whose best practices those are.
A DOER spokeswoman did not return a call Friday. A spokesman for the Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, however, said the state has not issued any new regulations or recommendations regarding turbines, although some are in the works.
The state requires that turbines be placed 1½ times their height from the nearest residence. The college’s turbine drew criticism from some nearby residents when public hearings for its construction were held.
BCC, meanwhile, plans to use the $600,000 for other alternative energy projects such as the proposed solar panel canopy over its parking lots on the west end of campus, Cameron said. The money could also be redirected toward sustainability efforts at the campus’ new $46 million classroom and science laboratory building, she added.
Cameron said she did not know if the college has a deadline to reallocate the grant.
Steve Kenyon, the college’s vice president for administration and finance, was unavailable for an interview Friday.
The solar panel system – being built at company SunEdison’s expense – is expected to save BCC about $50,000 annually when it first goes online. Future savings are tied to the fluctuating cost of electricity, and could reach $500,000 per year if prices rise to $0.20 per kilowatt-hour, Kenyon told The Standard-Times last month.
Asked if the college simply preferred to spend the $600,000 on something else, Cameron said no, adding that college officials “were pretty excited” about the turbine.
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