BY TOM DALTON
---- — SALEM — The strong breeze that blew the city’s wind turbine hopes along at a steady clip two years ago have diminished significantly. This winter, however, following what seemed a dead calm, the project is moving forward again.
Last week, the city’s energy manager told the Renewable Energy Task Force that a consultant is about to begin the final round of noise tests, one of the most important pieces in the city’s plan to erect a 380-foot wind turbine on Winter Island.
A noise background study was done in 2011, but a few problems were later discovered with the results. After a series of delays, the final testing, which must be done when leaves are off the trees, will take place this winter.
“This acoustic study is going to be the gold standard,” said Jeff Barz-Snell, vice chairman of the Renewable Energy Task Force.
City officials say they are still committed to putting a 1.5-megawatt turbine on Winter Island, despite strong opposition from a group of neighbors and several Marblehead residents who live across the harbor from the proposed site.
“We looked at every other (piece of) public land, and that’s the sweet spot,” said Cindy Keegan, chairwoman of the task force.
Tests showed that Winter Island, which juts out into the harbor, has the most suitable winds for a turbine, officials said.
Even though the noise study is about to be completed, city officials say they have no timeline for the wind turbine project and have not scheduled any public hearings.
An opposition group, SalemWind, has raised concerns about a number of issues, including noise.
“We remain adamantly opposed,” said Ed Moriarty, president of SalemWind and a neighbor of Winter Island. “We’re glad they’re doing further tests because we’re confident they will demonstrate that there’s a problem associated with noise. It’s not only a nuisance but a health hazard.”
Barz-Snell said he is certain the study will show just the opposite — that the turbine will not produce significant noise and poses no health threat.
Although these acoustic tests have dragged on for more than a year, City Planner Lynn Duncan said the city wouldn’t be doing them if it were not committed to a wind turbine on Winter Island, a project that officials say will generate annual revenues of $200,000 to $700,000.
“We’re committed to getting the information we need to make an informed decision and to provide the citizens with that information, as well,” Duncan said.
Tom Dalton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.