Below are excerpts from an article by Rob Howe, President, Sustainnovation Consulting, Inc. a division of Meridian Associates. Published in the July 2009 issue of High-Profile Monthly.
Boston, MA – Many municipalities are now actively exploring wind energy systems to hedge against escalating utility costs and fluctuating fossil fuel prices while at the same time reducing their carbon emissions and positioning themselves as environmental stewards. Wind power provides a clean source of energy that reduces greenhouse gas emissions generated by traditional energy power plants, protects natural areas from mining and oil drilling, reduces water pollution and does not disturb farming or forestry operations.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) Renewable Energy Trust offers an array of programs that address energy use at public facilities, as well as a program that helps communities explore the possibility of installing wind turbines on public land. The Commonwealth Wind Incentive Program (CommWind) provides rebate, grant, and loan funding for the installation of wind projects in Massachusetts.
Funding is available for public facilities that are customers of investor-owned electric distribution utilities or Municipal Light Plant Departments that pay into the Renewable Energy Trust. CommWind provides financial and technical support to wind projects through the different development stages. The three stages of support include: 1) services for high level site screening (public projects only); 2) grant support for in-depth technical and economic feasibility analysis; and 3) grants for design and construction support.
Under these programs, wind projects with a faceplate value of 100KW to 599 KW are eligible to receive $30,000 for a basic feasibility study and up to $50,000 for a study that includes a meteorological (Met) tower. For those projects in excess of 600KW, $65,000 in eligible funding is available for a basic feasibility study and up to $85,000 for a study that includes a Met tower. For design and construction, public entities are eligible for a zero cost share incurred below the maximum funding level. Funds for systems starting at 100KW, up to and beyond 600KW, range from $225,000 to $600,000.
At the federal level, the Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) program creates attractive financing options for wind projects for both borrowers and lenders. A qualified buyer is given access to 0% interest bonds (a formal contract to repay borrowed money at 0% interest for a fixed period) for projects that both generate electricity and are created from clean or renewable sources. The lender will receive a tax credit from the Federal Government instead of an interest check from the borrower. The maximum maturity for the CREB is set by the US Treasury on a monthly basis. The wind project also creates Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) which can be sold on the open market becoming a new source of revenue.
A wind project can be a complex effort. As a first step to assessing the feasibility of a wind turbine generator (WTG), a municipality may consider a preliminary appraisal to determine whether the project has potential merit. Topographical and wind resource data combined with a financial analysis of existing and future energy costs can be used to generate a preliminary “desktop” evaluation to reveal if potential sites are viable candidates for a WTG and deserving of an in-depth study to more conclusively assess technical and economic feasibility.
WTG feasibility can only be determined after site-specific data collection and analysis, studies of past electric consumption, energy and construction costs, and financial incentives. Variables include: measured wind resource quality and regularity, land topography and surrounding land use, site-access issues, capital cost for construction, electric consumption and savings from on-site electrical generation, state and federal grant funding incentives, the local, state and federal regulatory framework, and local disposition towards WTGs.
Several municipalities in Massachusetts are taking advantage of the benefits of state and federal programs and have turned to Meridian Associates for assistance with their wind projects.
Meridian is a Beverly based multi-disciplinary consulting firm offering services in renewable energy, sustainability and public infrastructure. Meridian is experienced in managing wind projects from the initial planning stages including the preparation of grant applications through study, design and construction.
The town of Hamilton has joined forces with the US Air Force to share the output produced through a wind turbine to be located on USAF land on Sagamore Hill.
The city of Beverly, in an effort to power its “green” high school, has concluded nine months of wind data collection after having secured $40,000 in MTC grant funding for a feasibility study.
The town of Ipswich Utilities Department is driving development of a wind project in collaboration with Ipswich School Department which secured and contributed $1.6M in 0% interest Clean Renewable Energy Bonds. Wind data collection was conducted by UMass.
Meridian Associates has conducted a fatal flaws analysis, feasibility study, bat and avian study, and secured permitting through the zoning board, Conservation Commission and FAA. The project is in its final design phase and construction will start in the fall.
SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI – The school department of North Kingstown, Rhode Island has contracted with ASA to perform a study to advise on the technical and economic feasibility of constructing the town’s first utility-sized wind turbine power generator.
ASA’s wind energy expert and senior principal, Daniel Mendelsohn will act as principal-in-charge and project manager on the project and lead a team of five sub-contractors including Loria Emerging Energy Consulting, GZA Geo-Environmental, Maguire Group, Sustainable Energy Advantage and Rich Gross Electrical. The team has worked together for the past four years and is actively involved in the development of wind projects in several New England states.
Mr. Mendelsohn, commented, “This is only one of many exciting renewable energy projects that ASA is involved in, with a view to provide experienced, leading edge services and technologies to municipal, state and private clients in the this important and growing market.” Mr. Mendelsohn further stated, “However, what makes today’s news most notable is the fact that this could be Rhode Island’s third megawatt scale turbine and Rhode Island is poised to be at the leading edge of a municipal renewable energy revolution in the northeast and in the United States. This project will be another step towards the achievement of the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Standard requirement of generating 16% of the State?s electrical power with renewable resources by 2020”.
ASA’s wind energy team was recently involved in a similar wind energy study for the new utility-scale, megawatt-sized wind turbine built for the Town of Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Mendelsohn, who led the Portsmouth wind feasibility project, applauds the municipality and school department’s leadership in pursuing alternative energy solutions at the local level. North Kingstown School Department is taking aim at similarly offsetting rising energy costs for their schools. Like the Portsmouth project, a North Kingstown turbine could potentially provide over 3 million kilowatt-hours of power per year, enough energy to offset (over a 20-year net cumulative savings) nearly $3 million. Funding for the Portsmouth turbine project was authorized via a bond referendum approved by Portsmouth voters last November which allowed the borrowing in the form of an interest-free Clean Renewable Energy Bond.
Ned Draper, Director of Administration at North Kingstown School Department announced, “The School Department and the town are excited about the prospect of tapping our local wind energy potential with ASA and ready to get the project off the ground.”
Geophysicists at the Kansas Geological Survey (KGS) have developed a new, non-intrusive method to quickly evaluate foundations to determine if they will support wind turbines. The method, which uses seismic waves to determine the bearing strength of the ground, is non-intrusive. Seismic energy is generated with a sledgehammer and detected by small sensors placed on the ground. The data can be quickly analyzed on a notebook computer to evaluate the proposed foundation. No drilling is required or even vehicular access, so the method is particularly applicable to quick investigations early in the planning phase.
The method, called “Multi-channel Analysis of Surface Waves (MASW)” was perfected by a research team of scientists at the KGS working for several years to make the approach practical and efficient for field surveys. Their initial tests were done on 100 proposed sites at the Blue Canyon Wind Farm in Oklahoma and near Elk River in Kansas. Since then, the procedure is catching as an efficient way to evaluate potential wind farms. Dr. Choon Park-the principal inventor of the method-has started a company to provide this service.
The field procedure is relatively simple. About two dozen vibration sensors, called geophones, are laid out in a line on the surface stretching about 100 feet. An ordinary sledgehammer is used to bang on the ground off the end of the line. The vibrations are detected by the geophones and recorded on a sensitive seismograph. Some of the waves travel along the surface, and some penetrate into the ground. The speed that the waves travel depends on the shear strength of the material, and the depth of penetration varies with the wavelength. The data is analyzed on a computer and colored plots are generated that reveal the shear strength of the ground at the surface and at various depths. Shear strength is the property that determines whether the foundation will support the vibrating motion of the wind turbine. Competent, as well as weak, materials are revealed in the plots.
The method can be used to quickly check a single site, or to efficiently map the foundation conditions to produce a 3D map of an entire wind farm. In some cases, follow-up drilling may be desirable to sample questionable areas, or in conjunction with actual construction of the wind turbine. Surface wave analysis can help avoid costly over-design or catastrophic under-design of the wind turbine foundations, at a fractional cost of extensive drilling programs.
More information is available at www.masw.com, and the Blue Canyon study is here www.kgs.ku.edu/Geophysics/OFR/2005/OFR05_22/
Services Park Seismic LLC Provides
Park Seismic LLC provides a complete field survey and reporting service for seismic investigation of wind turbine sites in a flexible and prompt manner, ranging from the most basic 1-D analysis to a complete 3-D analysis depending on the site conditions and budget availability. Field surveys may take one-half to one full day per site depending on the site accessibility, and preliminary results can be in hand by the end of the survey in the field. Multiple-site surveys can take place in much a faster and more cost-effective manner than single-site surveys. Park Seismic LLC also provides data-analysis-and-reporting services in the case that the field survey is performed by another survey company.
The Roger Williams School of Law in Bristol, RI hosted a symposium entitled “Fisheries and the Bench: A Proposal of the Rhode Island Sea Grant Legal Program & Sand County Foundation” at which Ms Madeja was asked to present to the judges in attendance the topic of the Public Trust Doctrine and fisheries management issues.
The symposium, three years in the making, gathered an exceptional group of officials, academics and professionals to discuss topics ranging from the evolving legal principles of ocean management regulatory schemes to facts of fisheries habitat; including discussions of property rights and the future of renewable energy projects in fisheries management areas. Ms. Madeja’s discussion of Public Trust Rights, a crucial element of fisheries management, highlighted the infinite interaction between the Public Trust doctrine and elements of fisheries and ocean management. Her perspective on the Public Trust doctrine is particularly relevant as competing interests are intersecting more frequently in our coastal and offshore waters.
Ms. Madeja’s background in environmental law and government relations has provided her a unique and comprehensive perspective of ocean management issues. For more information on Ms. Madeja’s work with the Public Trust doctrine, ocean and fisheries management or any other elements of Buchanan & Associates’ environmental law and government relations practice please call 617-227-8410 or email Jamy B. Madeja, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buchanan & Associates is a small, Beacon Hill law office concentrating on environmental and land use matters which require the participation of government agencies or entities to resolve.
The office was formed by Jamy Buchanan Madeja, Esq. in 1995, after having served as General Counsel to Governor Weld’s Executive Office of Environmental Affairs; Ms. Madeja has been practicing environmental law since 1988. The firm is certified as a women-business enterprise (WBE) by the state government and disadvantaged-business enterprise (DBE) by the federal government. Ms. Madeja is also a registered Massachusetts lobbyist and is certified as a mediator in dispute resolution proceedings.
Buchanan & Associates is a member of the Environmental Business Council.
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