A change in the wind? Town looks at wind power

Written by Administrator
 | Tuesday, 25 August 2009 21:16

Could a wind turbine help ease Duxbury’s rising energy costs? The idea of wind power on town-owned land is just one of several energy-saving strategies being studied by the Alternative Energy Committee. Although any such turbine is several steps removed from becoming a reality, officials say the project has support in town and would be beneficial to residents.

“We’ve applied for a small grant that would cover about 90 percent of the cost of a wind turbine study,” said Committee Chairman Frank Duggan. He said a study would typically cost about $35,000, and the state has given other communities close to $30,000. He acknowledged, however, that any money for alternative energy would be hard to come by in the tough economic climate.

“Most of the wells are pretty dry,” he said.

The grant is administered by the Mass. Tech Collaborative (now being called the Mass. Renewable Energy Trust)

Town Planner Tom Broadrick said the trust’s consultant will arrange a site visit in the coming weeks with Town Manager Richard McDonald, but he wants to tour the site with the Alternative Energy Committee first.

When the town receives the grant –– right now Duggan said they’re “in line” –– MTC officials would come out and do a “desktop analysis,” using maps and other historical data to determine possible locations for a turbine. Then, a temporary testing tower called a MET tower would be set up to measure wind speed and weather conditions.

Possible sites for the turbine include the North Hill Golf Course, the DPW complex behind Town Hall, the transfer station, the school complex off St. George Street, and on the Chandler School property.

Duggan believes North Hill is the best location in town for a turbine, although he acknowledged that there are concerns about the site, including worries from Recreation Director Gordon Cushing that the turbine would become a giant bull’s-eye.

“The highest point of the golf course is like it was planted there by the gods,” he said.

Duggan said Duxbury is in a “fortuitous situation” as far as wind power goes, the town has several high points that get plenty of wind.

“The right place for it is critical,” he said.

Broadrick, who has some experience working with turbine applications, said the ideal situation for a wind turbine is to have the blades about 30 feet above the tree line, with the towers reaching between 120-160 feet high.

Broadrick said that there are a lot of misconceptions about wind turbines, such as the fear that the turbine will collapse and damage buildings in its shadow.

“That’s the same thing we heard about cell towers,” he said. “It’s really not necessarily true.”

Broadrick also said that recent advancements in wind turbine technology now allow the energy saved from a turbine located anywhere in town to be allocated to a specific use. For example, energy generated from a wind turbine located at North Hill could be applied to the high school. In some towns with turbines, he said utility companies are giving credits for excess energy generated that can be put back into the grid.

MacDonald said the town is still several steps away from a turbine, including investigating all possible grants. He said Town Meeting would likely have a say in any installation.

However, he said energy needs must be on the town’s  radar moving forward, pointing out that he has asked the committee steering the search for a new crematory building to include some kind of heat recapture.

“Anything we’re going to do from here on out is going to have some kind of energy saving measure associated with it,” he said.

Duggan said that wind power is just one of the ways his committee is seeking to save the town money.

“We’re not into science experiments, we want it to be worthwhile,” he said. “Now more than ever municipalities have to look hard at where their energy costs are going. Our job is looking at any and all ways to save money.”

Clipper reporter Dave Palana also contributed to this article.