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Local News

August 17, 2011

Swampscott could build $3M turbine

SWAMPSCOTT — The town is considering building a $3 million, 335-foot-high wind turbine at the middle school that would supply the school with electricity.

"It's part of our comprehensive approach to energy," said Victoria Masone, the assistant town engineer.

A $75,000 grant from the Massachusetts Center for Clean Energy paid for a feasibility study. The hefty, yearlong analysis prepared by Meridian Associates of Beverly calls for a 900-kilowatt turbine.

"This scenario yields a positive (financial) return at 16 years," according to the study.

Masone said the project is likely years from being built and is in its early stages.

"It is anticipated that all of the wind energy produced by the installation of a wind turbine generator will be utilized by Swampscott Middle School," the study says.

The turbine would supply "between 30 to 40 percent of the energy (for) the middle school," Masone said.

Over the past three or four years, a group from the University of Massachusetts offered free site surveys for municipalities interested in building wind turbines.

"The group from UMass came out and evaluated four different sites," Masone said. "(It) honed down onto one site, the Forest Avenue site."

After the location was chosen, MassCEC provided the town with the grant to hire Meridian Associates. The study looked at numerous variables, including wind speed, noise, shadows, permitting roadblocks and financial impact.

It was released in June, and Jonathan Markey from Meridian gave a presentation to the town's Renewable Energy Committee and some abutters. The report is technically in draft form — it must go through an additional review process — but it is likely very close to its final form.

Though the turbine project has been contemplated for a few years, so far it hasn't seen much public light.

"Up to this point, we weren't really open (about the project) because we weren't sure the project was viable," Masone said.

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