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Losing altitude

The town's chances of becoming greener have been curtailed by its proximity to Logan International Airport, which is 0.2 to 2 miles from any given point in the community. The two locations identified for a turbine are 0.75 and 1.25 miles from the airport, according to the DPW. After submitting a permit application early last year, town officials received a verbal report in November from the Federal Aviation Administration that indicated that a 250-foot structure in the vicinity of the DPW site would create, "a potential concern with sound landing and takeoff procedures and may be within or uncomfortably close to critical surface area zones," Hickey stated in a letter to Winthrop's town manager last year.

With the airport nearby, Winthrop's high hopes for wind turbine, revenue are sinking toward disappointment

Being in a waterfront community with no shortage of wind, Winthrop officials were optimistic the town would be a key cog in the state's goal of becoming a leader in wind power.

Private investors in green technology and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust were also keen on Winthrop, offering financial support as town officials studied the feasibility of erecting a 250-foot wind turbine in one of two spots near the Belle Isle Cemetery or at the Department of Public Works site.

"The whole concept of green energy is pretty popular in our town," said DPW director David Hickey, who led the way in the town's project-application stage.

But harnessing wind power has been a struggle for Winthrop.

The town's chances of becoming greener have been curtailed by its proximity to Logan International Airport, which is 0.2 to 2 miles from any given point in the community. The two locations identified for a turbine are 0.75 and 1.25 miles from the airport, according to the DPW.

After submitting a permit application early last year, town officials received a... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

With the airport nearby, Winthrop's high hopes for wind turbine, revenue are sinking toward disappointment

Being in a waterfront community with no shortage of wind, Winthrop officials were optimistic the town would be a key cog in the state's goal of becoming a leader in wind power.

Private investors in green technology and the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust were also keen on Winthrop, offering financial support as town officials studied the feasibility of erecting a 250-foot wind turbine in one of two spots near the Belle Isle Cemetery or at the Department of Public Works site.

"The whole concept of green energy is pretty popular in our town," said DPW director David Hickey, who led the way in the town's project-application stage.

But harnessing wind power has been a struggle for Winthrop.

The town's chances of becoming greener have been curtailed by its proximity to Logan International Airport, which is 0.2 to 2 miles from any given point in the community. The two locations identified for a turbine are 0.75 and 1.25 miles from the airport, according to the DPW.

After submitting a permit application early last year, town officials received a verbal report in November from the Federal Aviation Administration that indicated that a 250-foot structure in the vicinity of the DPW site would create, "a potential concern with sound landing and takeoff procedures and may be within or uncomfortably close to critical surface area zones," Hickey stated in a letter to Winthrop's town manager last year.

"We got a finding of presumed significant hazard," Hickey added in an interview. "Meaning that you have to do more work, but they strongly feel it will interrupt their services. We had very little promise."

Upon hearing the FAA's assessment, investors who had expressed interest in footing the upfront cost of the project in exchange for a share of the eventual revenue quickly lost interest, Hickey said.

Although Winthrop has pursued other green energy options, such as solar-powered lighting at Hannaford Park and Massa Playground, Hickey and other town officials said it's unfair that Winthrop can't go as green as it would like. Besides being environmentally friendly, wind power would have generated revenue for the town years down the road.

"There's nowhere in Winthrop where we're outside this elevation line," Hickey said. "We told the [Town] Council they'd be better off looking at solar or smaller wind turbines that you can put on a utility pole, and they're not highly efficient or really cost-effective.

"At the end of the day it's a question of fairness, made more unfair by the fact that many of our neighbors, and certainly much of the state, can't go green with wind power because they don't have a consistent breeze," he added. "That's the biggest and first hurdle for most communities, and we met that fairly well."

Airspace restrictions may apply to all of Winthrop's residential areas, but not the entire town. Winthrop's Deer Island, where the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority operates a sewage treatment facility just over 2 miles from the airport, received FAA approval last year for two 190-foot wind turbines, with the possibility of adding three more in the near future, said MWRA spokeswoman Ria Convery. The FAA rejected the MWRA's initial proposal for 400-foot turbines, ultimately agreeing to the 190-foot ones because they're the same height as the waste digesters on the site, Convery said.

Foundation work on the $4 million project is scheduled to start next month, while the turbines, being manufactured in India, are scheduled to arrive early to mid-summer. The treatment facility already uses solar panels and burns methane from the waste to make electricity, Convery said. Once the turbines are up, she added, the FAA will monitor them for 30 days, and if airport and flight operations are not disrupted, it will allow other turbines.

Other wind turbines approved in the area include one at the Forbes Park residential development in Chelsea and one in Medford.

Local communities and facilities also seeking wind power approval are Gloucester, Hamilton, Rockport, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Governor's Academy of Newbury, Lynn, Manchester Athletic Club, Salem, Swampscott, and Beverly, according to the latest information from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.

Several are still in the early stages, but Lynn's had to be scaled back after the FAA indicated it would interfere with a flight path, said Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust spokeswoman Emily Dahl.

Lynn officials have to consider a small turbine with a maximum 600-kilowatt capacity at a maximum height of 254 feet.

In Winthrop, the focus has shifted to solar power, as officials have identified the roofs of the Larsen Hockey Rink and the DPW facility as good spots for solar panels, Hickey said.

"Solar is not as efficient as wind and it will be less money" generated, he said. "It's a modest revenue generator and one that you may very well have to wait seven to eight years to get revenue for it."

Winthrop's finance director, Michael Bertino, one of the few residents in town with solar panels at home, said the town's fiscal crisis and reduced staff, including the lack of a grant writer, is preventing it from aggressively seeking financing for other sources of green energy.

He suggested that if the FAA is preventing the town from acquiring wind power, then it should compensate the town with funds to find alternative energy sources.

"It's a blow because we're on the water, wind is synonymous with the ocean, and we should be able to partner to get these new technologies . . . smaller, whisper wind turbines, noninvasive ones that produce power as well," Bertino said. "Once we get our financial house in order, we're going to look to create greener technologies."

"It's a shame," Hickey said. "We're blessed with the resource, wind year-round, but through no fault of our own other than our proximity to the airport, we can't get wind power."


Source: http://www.boston.com/news/...

MAR 26 2009
http://www.windaction.org/posts/19630-losing-altitude
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