BROCKTON – While Chicago’s nickname is the “Windy City,” a mayoral candidate said during a recent debate that Brockton actually takes the cake.
“People have forgotten that we are No. 1 in wind speed,” said Chris MacMillan, who is challenging one-term incumbent Bill Carpenter for mayor of Brockton. “We need to tap into that. We need to have a company come in here, build those devices in Brockton and bring in more jobs. That’s what I would do.”
So, is Brockton the windiest city?
MacMillan said he based his statement on an online listing of average wind speeds published by City-Data.com, an online repository of statistics collected from public records and user-generated information. The unattributed claim is also repeated on the Brockton Wikipedia page, stating that Brockton has the highest average wind speeds for a city with a population of more than 50,000, at 14.3 miles per hour.
Several scientists from the Northeast Regional Climate Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said that the 14.3 miles per hour figure likely came from readings at the nearby Blue Hill Observatory in Milton, and that there are no reliable, regular wind measurements for Brockton. They also noted that the City-Data listing does not give a time frame for the average wind reading in Brockton.
“The only thing our scientists can figure is perhaps you might have been looking at the Blue Hill Observatory data,” said John Leslie, a spokesperson for NOAA. “However, the observatory is rather elevated when compared to surrounding towns.”
Leslie provided a 2014 data sheet for the Milton site, which lists the average wind speed in January last year as 14.3 miles per hour.
Samantha Borisoff, a climatologist for NRCC, agreed.
“I consulted with my colleague on this, and we determined that they are likely using data from the closest hourly site then applying that data to any nearby cities of 50,000 or more people,” Borisoff said.
According to NRCC figures, using historic weather data through 2012, the places with the highest annual average wind speeds are Mt. Washington, New Hampshire (35.1 miles per hour); Cold Bay, Arkansas (16.6); St. Paul Island, Arkansas (16.5); Johnston Island in the Pacific Ocean (15.8); and then Blue Hill Observatory (15). Boston’s annual average wind speed is 12.3 miles per hour and Chicago is 10.3, NRCC states.
A listing of windiest places published by the NOAA puts Blue Hill at the second highest mean wind speeds (15.2 miles per hour), behind Mount Washington. On that list, Blue Hill is ahead of Dodge City, Kansas (13.9) and Amarillo, Texas (13.5), which has a population of roughly 196,500. Brockton is not listed by either agencies.
However, there is one spot in Brockton that does reach speeds up to 14.3 miles per hour, at the high end of the area’s threshold of typical wind speeds, at an elevation of 50 meters, according to Vincent Moschella, a portfolio manager for Aeuronautica Windpower, based in Plymouth. Referring to dataset collected by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is a federal laboratory under the U.S. Department of Energy, Moschella said that wind speeds at 50 meters height could reach a maximum of 14.3 miles per hour at a spot near Cleveland Pond.
“That’s an area we would look at,” said Moschella, whose company previously announced its interest in potential development of wind turbines in Brockton in 2009.
Moschella said that for his company to develop a wind energy site in Brockton, it would need the support at the highest levels of leadership in the city, especially because of potential issues with preservation trusts and permitting. Still, his company classifies the Brockton site as “marginal,” and added that the turbine would need to reach 80 meters in the air for higher wind speeds, similar to an installation it has in Kingston.
“I would feel comfortable saying there are spots that would work in Brockton for wind,” Moschella said. “It would be on a community scale, though. I don’t see any situations here where you’d get a big project like the those being installed in Wareham.”
Aeuronautica Windpower also has a wind turbine that is being assembled for a proposed site in Bridgewater, with an installation planned for spring.
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