Sunday, February 19, 2012

Town Turns off Wind, Opts for Solar Energy

At a time of accelerating production of both wind and solar energy, Duxbury officials have decided to buy solar energy produced elsewhere and take their own wind project off the table.

“It’s an opportunity to save money,’’ Jim Goldenberg, chairman of the town’s Alternative Energy Committee, said after town selectmen signed a 20-year agreement with a solar energy company that plans to build its facility in Acushnet.

The deal is expected to save the town up to $30,000 a year in energy costs and supply about 25 percent of the energy the town needs to run facilities such as schools, Town Hall, and other buildings, officials say. The producer, Pegasus Renewable Energy Partners LLC of Marstons Mills, has yet to begin construction of the solar farm. It’s expected to take about a year to begin producing power.

Duxbury is also moving ahead on a plan to lease its capped landfill to a private developer, American Capital Energy, a national company whose customers include the Army, to build a solar energy farm there. Town Meeting backed the project last fall.

The town’s move to buy solar energy was made in conjunction with the Alternative Energy Committee’s decision to put a hold on the possibility of building a wind turbine. The decision comes at a time when neighboring Kingston is touting the construction of five turbines within its borders. Kingston officials said their town’s wind and solar projects together would earn up to a $1 million a year in new revenue.

Until recently Duxbury was planning to build a wind turbine, too. Goldenberg’s committee had planned to seek funding from Town Meeting to continue its feasibility study of a wind turbine on town property next to its North Hill golf course.

But that plan came under attack by a group of residents who said they feared that living near a turbine would undermine their health, lower their property values, and alter the neighborhood’s residential character. They hired an attorney, produced a report attacking the financial basis of the project, and won a vote from selectmen urging the committee not to seek funds for the project.

Local wind power advocates cried foul. They said opponents were relying on a corporate-quality website and dubious information supplied by an anti-wind lobby with little connection to the town.

But Goldenberg said his group chose the solar option solely based on a comparison of the economics of the wind turbine project relative to the solar deals committee members have been working on. The bottom line, he said, is that a wind turbine on North Hill would produce electricity at $.155 per kilowatt hour versus $.10 per kilowatt hour to buy solar, a 35 percent cost differential.


No comments: