Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Kittery's council OKs wind project

Building a 50-kilowatt turbine will be mostly symbolic, says Town Manager Jonathan Carter.

Portland Press Herald
By ANNE GLEASON Staff Writer
December 12, 2007

Kittery is one step closer to erecting a wind turbine to power its transfer station and serve as a demonstration project for others who want to explore wind power.

Kittery's project, which still needs approval from the town's planning and zoning boards, is a 50-kilowatt turbine, expected to produce about 90,000 kilowatt-hours of energy each year. The turbine would cost $185,000, and town officials project a return on the investment in eight to 15 years.

On Monday night, the Town Council approved the project and voted to set aside $50,000 from the town's matching grant fund and as much as $100,000 from its solid-waste reserve fund for the project. In October, the Maine Public Utilities Commission selected Kittery's project for a $50,000 grant from its Voluntary Renewable Resources Fund.

Kittery's project would power the trash transfer station and is expected to provide electricity for a portion of the nearby Shapleigh Middle School. In addition, the town would be able to sell renewable energy credits to buyers that want to reduce their carbon footprint.

The project is mostly symbolic, illustrating Kittery's move toward energy self-reliance and serving as an educational tool, said Town Manager Jonathan Carter.

Cameron Wake, a member of the town's energy committee, said, "Once it gets going, it will be available to provide information to other communities that might be interested in pursuing this option."

The PUC grant fund is meant to encourage small-scale clean energy projects that can be developed and replicated, said PUC spokeswoman Nicole Clegg. "They have to be demonstration projects, so that the public can see how it's working."

The University of Maine at Presque Isle received a $50,000 grant this fall for a 400- to 700-kilowatt wind turbine, expected to produce 1 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year. Other applicants that got grants this year were planning small-scale solar and tidal power projects.

Municipalities and other entities may get further encouragement from the state to explore wind power. The state convened a task force last spring to study wind issues ranging from small systems to large wind farms.

One subcommittee is exploring ways the state can encourage projects ranging from a small backyard system to a one- megawatt, utility-scale wind turbine, said subcommittee Chairman Bruce MacDonald, a state legislator.

The state could look to Massachusetts as a model, MacDonald said. Massachusetts' Community Wind Collaborative provides technical assistance, such as wind site surveys and equipment, to municipalities that are exploring wind power.

"The will is there (for a similar program). Whether we have the financing, that's a different subject," MacDonald said.

MacDonald said the state also could help municipalities write ordinances to regulate wind turbines. The goal, he said, is to encourage municipalities, schools, hospitals and others to explore wind power projects.

For now, many communities are figuring out wind power by studying other communities.

Kittery officials talked to officials in Saco, which has a small turbine and plans a 50-kilowatt turbine. They also went to Hull, Mass., which has two utility-scale turbines.

Eliot is drafting an ordinance to regulate wind turbines, which it researched by doing a nationwide search of other ordinances, said Dan Gair, chairman of that town's energy committee.

In Kittery, the PUC grant program to encourage renewable energy was the spark that brought the project from concept to reality, Wake said. "That was the incentive for us to figure out how to do this."

Staff Writer Anne Gleason can be contacted at 282-8229 or at:

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