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Turning to the wind

With the help of state policy, research and funding from clean-energy supporters, Hull, Princeton and Boston fought the challenges and have erected wind turbines. The concept has supporters in Newbury. Newburyport is watching, with the new mayor saying a committee to look into the option may be in order.

NEWBURY — It could never be mistaken for the Danish countryside, but Newbury may someday hold the same large edifices that dot the landscape of the Scandinavian country.

Newbury, like many coastal towns across the region, is planting the seeds for harnessing wind power as an alternative energy source. While cutting town utility costs, windmills could send excess power to electric companies, bringing money back to the town.

Windmills gained renewed attention as oil prices skyrocketed last year. Advocates of wind power say it lowers utility costs for communities and taps a clean resource. Opponents say it costs more than the power is worth, kills birds, eats up land and lowers property values.

With the help of state policy, research and funding from clean-energy supporters, Hull, Princeton and Boston fought the challenges and have erected wind turbines.

The concept has supporters in Newbury. Newburyport is watching, with the new mayor saying a committee to look into the option may be in order.

"We're on a fishing expedition to find a place to put one and set some parameters," said Gene Smith, who heads Newbury's new Wind Power Taskforce.

Just a whim?

Newbury Board of... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  
NEWBURY — It could never be mistaken for the Danish countryside, but Newbury may someday hold the same large edifices that dot the landscape of the Scandinavian country.

Newbury, like many coastal towns across the region, is planting the seeds for harnessing wind power as an alternative energy source. While cutting town utility costs, windmills could send excess power to electric companies, bringing money back to the town.

Windmills gained renewed attention as oil prices skyrocketed last year. Advocates of wind power say it lowers utility costs for communities and taps a clean resource. Opponents say it costs more than the power is worth, kills birds, eats up land and lowers property values.

With the help of state policy, research and funding from clean-energy supporters, Hull, Princeton and Boston fought the challenges and have erected wind turbines.

The concept has supporters in Newbury. Newburyport is watching, with the new mayor saying a committee to look into the option may be in order.

"We're on a fishing expedition to find a place to put one and set some parameters," said Gene Smith, who heads Newbury's new Wind Power Taskforce.

Just a whim?

Newbury Board of Selectmen Chairman Vincent Russo mentioned the windmill idea at a meeting in November. What was at first a notion has now become a consideration leaders are taking seriously.

The idea took root with the formation of the task force, which includes Smith, the former New York Times energy editor and a Plum Island resident; LuAnn Kuder of Hanover Drive; and Ron Barrett of Hutchins Terrace. The task force will research the economic and physical feasibility of building a windmill in Newbury.

Some factors in Newbury support wind power, particularly its location near the coast and the ocean breeze. But many factors need consideration, such as cost. Hull paid $3 million for a wind turbine.

Professor James Manwell of the University of Massachusetts Renewable Energy Research Laboratory said the hurdles can be cleared. The lab is working with Barnstable and Chester in their wind power endeavors.

"When a community decides they really want to bring wind power in, we can find a way to get them the money," he said. "People are beginning to see there really is an economic gain in wind power with the price of oil remaining high. I mean, what is more reliable than the wind?"

In September 2003, the Renewable Energy Trust announced the creation of a $4 million Community Wind Collaborative offering money and technical assistance to help towns tap the wind.

"We've been approached by a slew of towns interested in wind energy and are currently working with about 20 at various steps along the process," Manwell said.

Besides financing, the major hurdle is where to set up a wind turbine. Putting one in the water is more costly and, to many, unsightly. Putting them on land can bring out the "not in my backyard" argument.

Barrett and Smith said the task force should scope out town-owned land before looking into private property. Marsh Road resident Fred Thurlow offered some of his land for a windmill site.

Barrett, who went to Hull to examine that town's windmill, suggested the old dump on Hay Street as a possible site.

Manwell said setting a wind turbine in the water has some pluses. While more expensive, turbines on the ocean are often taller and generate power from a more consistent wind without the interference from nearby hills.

"Most people tend to put larger turbines in the ocean," Manwell said.
For the birds?

The perceived threat to migratory birds is a top worry in a town that has a major migratory bird sanctuary.

"Of course Plum Island would be a great spot," said Barrett, who added with birders in mind, "but we'd spend all our time getting through the arguments."

A coalition of national wildlife groups last year.wrote to.the U.S. Department of the Interior's National Wildlife Service to take immediate steps to protect wildlife from wind turbines. The group included the National Audubon Society, Endangered Species Coalition and the International Wildlife Coalition.

Manwell said the threat to birds is exaggerated.

."Windmills are like buildings, and birds are smart animals," he said. "Studies have shown that two to three birds are killed by wind turbines per year."

According to the Web site of Navitas Energy, a leading commercial wind power developer in Minnesota, technology advances have reduced the risk to migratory birds by increasing the size and visibility of the blades, slowing the speed of rotation and using monopole towers with internal ladders and underground wiring to eliminate roosting and nesting sites on the structures.

Newburyport resident Robert Jackson sent Smith a 132-page government birdwatching study that documented how birds adapt to wind turbines.

"By the time you get through the reading, you'll see it isn't that big a problem," Jackson said.

Making it work

Hull's wind power story started four years ago with a turbine set on a 240-foot tower near the high school. Four years later, the town received the shipment of its second windmill from Denmark this week.
"We have them, we know they work, and they don't kill birds," said John MacLeod, the municipal light plant manager. "After the success of Hull-1, a group of citizens and advocates who liked the wind power idea got together about three years ago to get another one."

Manwell, of the Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, said studies, like taking wind data for a year, were performed at no cost to Hull through the Renewable Energy Trust.

Hull-1, nicknamed "the little guy" by MacLeod, produces 1.5 million kilowatt-hours each year. It is the first commercial-scale wind turbine on the coastline in the continental United States and the continent's first urban turbine, according to Malcolm Brown, a commissioner of the Hull Municipal Light Board.

Hull power consumers are pleased.

"We put it to Town Meeting and it passed unanimously," MacLeod said. "It showed that we had educated the community enough to win their confidence to bring another one on-line."

The town agreed Hull-2 should be placed in an enclosed, offshore landfill, he said. Hull-2 will measure 328 feet tall and produce about 1.8 megawatts, about enough electricity for 800 homes, MacLeod said. The cost is $3 million. The windmill comes with a five-year warranty, he said.

The town is working on studies for four larger wind turbines in the ocean off Hull, he said.

"The six combined wind turbines would generate about 95 percent of the town's electricity," MacLeod said. "This town is lucky — we have a lot of people who really took a hold of bringing wind power to Hull. That is sometimes half the battle."

For a cash-strapped town like Newbury, that may prove the biggest challenge of all.

But to Barrett, that may be the selling point. The Newbury task force's job is first to total up the electricity use for all town buildings. Then the group will look at whether a wind turbine might generate a surplus of energy.

"Hopefully," he said, "we can make a profit by selling some of it back to the electric company."

Wind energy facts

* The cost of wind energy is estimated at 3.5 to 5 cents per kilowatt hour, according to state energy officials, while conventional power on average costs towns about 12 cents per kilowatt hour.
* Denmark uses wind power for almost 20 percent of power consumption, a figure projected to grow to 25 percent by 2008, according to the Web site of the Danish Wind Industry.
* Coal-burning power plants generate 52 percent of this nation's power, with another 20 percent from nuclear energy, 16 percent natural gas, 7 percent hydropower and 3 percent oil.
* The federal government allocated nearly $375 million for developing renewable energy in fiscal 2001, with $40 million for wind power.

Source: http://www.ecnnews.com/cgi-...

JAN 18 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/1005-turning-to-the-wind
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