Friday, December 19, 2008
Planning Board reviews alternative energy options
At the December 8 Planning Board meeting, the Accessory Alternative Clean Energy Generation Committee gave a presentation on their progress.
Administrative Coordinator Elizabeth Barnett outlined the committee’s objective: to propose a zoning bylaw at the Annual Town Meeting to cover installation and operation of small wind turbines for residential or farm use. The scope of the proposed bylaw(s) will also include solar energy systems although the discussion was primarily on the turbines. Similar bylaws from several Massachusetts communities were reviewed by the committee: Acton, Chelmsford, Dover, Hamilton, Harvard, Manchester-by-the Sea and Windsor. Bylaws and guidelines were also reviewed from Rhode Island (Barrington), New Mexico and California (Sonoma County).
Committee member Keith Therrien said that primary wind direction in Carlisle is from the southwest. In broad terms he summarized some of the financial considerations for a residential installation: Initial cost for a 10-kilowatt system could be $50,000 which may be mitigated to $35,000 if a Massachusetts Technology Collaborative rebate can be secured. At this time there is no federal tax credit for wind systems but there are federal incentives for solar and fuel cell systems. The presentation material estimated that “payback” on this system’s cost would be nine to 12 years, given current electric rates ($.19/kilowatthour) in avoided cost and in the sale of excess electricity to NSTAR at the current rate of $.07/kWh.
Committee Chair Bob Koning pointed out that such a system, in contrast with a gasoline- or diesel-powered back-up electrical generator that is not tied into the electric grid, cannot be operated in the event of a general power failure (as was experienced in the recent ice storm). Utility personnel operating on downed electric lines must be assured that there is no feedback into the lines from wind or solar generators.
When board members asked why the wind turbine options considered were monopole and lattice towers but not systems secured by guy-wires, the response was that excess clearing of trees would be involved. Koning referred to the hazard potential of a high-tension guy-wire being within the “hit zone” of a falling tree. Although a support tower must be hinged at the bottom so that it can be lowered for repair and servicing of the turbine, less clearing is needed for a monopole or lattice tower.
The committee is proposing that the Board of Appeals be given the responsibility for issuing a special permit for a residential wind-turbine system.
The Planning Board has the responsibility to conduct public hearings on any proposed Zoning Bylaw changes. The committee will deliver a draft of the proposed bylaw(s) by February 2 to Planning Board Administrator George Mansfield. Assuming a Town Meeting in early May, the board will conduct a public hearing at its February 23 meeting.
A good resource website is the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, the state’s economic development agency for renewable energy (). Information is available on individual and commercial projects, financial assistance available and a Massachusetts wind data map.There is an excellent historical and technical discussion in . ∆
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