Bridgewater will soon host a structure the height of a 20-story building.
The MBTA has chosen the town as the site for a 213-foot-high wind turbine to be erected this fall, MBTA Manager of Energy Efficiency Michael Donaghy told the Town Council.
“This is an optimal location because of the minimal impact on abutters,” Donaghy said.
He said the turbine will be constructed on MBTA land near the Middleboro/Lakeville line east of the Department of Correction complex along an abandoned rail line that used to deliver coal to the prison.
The surrounding area is mainly farmland without a house for a radius of several miles, he estimated.
Donaghy said the turbine will have an estimated annual production of 1.6 million kWh, will weigh 81,200 pounds and will reach a height of 302 feet with one of the blades extended straight up.
He said the turbine will save the MBTA an estimated $195,000 annually on its electricity bill and will pay for itself in an estimated 18.6 years.
“We hope this proves the business case for renewables,” Donaghy said.
The turbine will cost several million dollars to construct, said Donaghy, without providing a precise figure. But based on the project payback estimate, the cost would be approximately $3.6 million.
Donaghy said the plan is to go out to bid in June, take delivery of the turbine on-site in October and have it up and running by November.
Being a state agency, the MBTA does not need to obtain permits from the town, Donaghy said.
“Why us?” Town Councilor Bill Rivers asked Donaghy.
Rivers said the MBTA runs lines through towns with much higher wind speeds, such as the Greenbush line on the South Shore.
The Bridgewater structure will be one of two MBTA turbines statewide. The other one is already up and running in Kingston.
The MBTA also looked at sites in Scituate along the Greenbush line and Newburyport.
But neither of those worked out, Donaghy said.
“With regards to the Greenbush and Newburyport locations there were discussions at that time to possibly develop the parcels that would have precluded the construction of wind turbines had the developments moved forward. With those questions coupled with opportunity at both sites, the MBTA moved forward with the current site selections,” Donaghy said in an email.
He said the MBTA has a lot of land but most of it is “linear” and unsuitable for this type of project.
The minimum average wind speed for utility-scale turbines to be viable is generally considered to be 6 meters per second or about 13 miles per hour. Bridgewater came in just under that mark. But the innovative turbine design being utilized can make that speed work, Donaghy said.
Rivers asked Donaghy if the MBTA would consider paying Bridgewater to host the turnbine. When the town hosts a solar field, it gets PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) money, Rivers said.
Donaghy said he would raise the issue at the MBTA.
But he said, “We’re utilizing this to offset some of our own operating costs and we view that as a benefit to our constituency.”
The MBTA does not pay Kingston to host its existing turbine, he said.
The power from the turbine will be transmitted underground to Titicut Road, where it will tie into existing National Grid connections.
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