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Scituate grants contract for wind turbine

Posted by Lisa Crowley  November 18, 2009 09:59 AM

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Scituate selectmen have approved a contract to allow a private company to build a wind turbine on public land, a move expected to save the town up to $300,000 a year and reduce the town’s carbon footprint by 3 million kilowatt hours per year.

It follows Hull, where a wind turbine has been running successfully.

Scituate selectmen last night granted a 15-year contract to Solaya Energy, a Woburn company, to construct a 390-foot windmill on town land on the Driftway next to the sewer plant.

Officials said the move is believed to be the first in the state where town-owned land has been offered to a private company to build a wind turbine. The company plans to sell power to the town at preferential rates, and would earn profits by selling to other customers at higher rates.

“If it works out the way we think, let’s build more,” said Selectman Rick Murray.

Selectmen unanimously approved the contract to Solaya, which will pay the construction and maintenance costs over the 15 years of the contract. Solaya is expected to move quickly toward construction, and the turbine is expected to be up and running by fall or winter of 2011.

A public permitting process at the local, state, and federal level will begin once the company files plans for permits.

Public Works Director Al Bangert, who made the presentation to the board, said over the 15 years of the contract, Scituate would save as much at $4.5 million in electricity costs.

Bangert said the town has agreed to pay a rising scale for electricity, beginning at 8.9 cents per kilowatt hour in the first two years. The town currently pays 17 cents per kilowatt hour.

The contract calls for the town to pay no higher than 10.9 cents per kilowatt hour during the 15 years, far below estimated increases in inflation. “We think this is really a good move for the town,” Bangert said.

After 15 years, the town and the company may extend the contract twice by five years. Town meeting in April approved a long-term contract for 25 years.

Bangert said the electricity the town will buy to power municipal and school buildings and street lights is clean energy and not carbon-based, which decreases the town’s carbon footprint -- or the amount of fossil fuel-based energy that individuals, businesses and towns produce — by 3 million kilowatts per year.

“This will be a major reduction of the carbon footprint of the town,” Bangert said.

Through wind monitoring tests, the company believes the wind turbine will produce 14 million kilowatts of electricity per year, which it will sell to others at a profit.

Bangert said if the turbine does not produce as much as the company expects, the town has first rights to what is generated.

There are also penalties for improper maintenance of the turbine and other aspects that could come into play, he said.

Officials said the town began looking at wind turbines two years ago and the Renewable Energy Committee has worked thousands of hours to get the project off the ground. A request for proposals was issued in the spring, and the committee has interviewed three companies who submitted proposals.

Officials said the cost to develop the turbine has been about $9,000 for legal fees surrounding the contract.

Selectmen Chairman Joseph Norton thanked the energy committee and noted that Paul O’Brien, who is now dead, was one of the first to put the wind turbine idea on the table nearly 10 years ago.

“Everywhere you ran into Paul—at church, at the landfill he would talk about wind turbines,” Norton said. “He did a lot of hard work and planted the seed before any of us knew we wanted it.”

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