Wind Turbine Demo in Salem: More planned

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Catch the wind: Turbine plan OKd

Tom Dalton

 SALEM  In a city where a coal-fired power plant is visible from almost every vantage point, it is easy to forget that another energy source  wind off the ocean  powered the sailing ships that put this historic seaport on the map. While the Witch City is not about to start calling itself the Windy City, there are signs that Salem is taking a serious look at the wind at its back. Groom Energy Solutions, a new company on Swampscott Road, recently won approval to put a 33-foot-tall wind turbine in its parking lot. Although this turbine, which costs about $15,000 to install, is largely a demonstration model for residential use, it is one of the first such structures approved here in years. In addition to what the company hopes are business possibilities, its value is also symbolic. If a little wind turbine is possible, can a big one be far behind? A few days ago, the citys Renewable Energy Task Force submitted an application to a state agency to explore the possibility of building a large wind turbine somewhere in the city. Although dimensions vary, such turbines can be 300 feet or taller and cost $1 million to $2 million. The sites suggested include Winter Island, Salem Willows, Forest River Park, the South Essex Sewerage District plant on Fort Avenue and several schools  Salem High/Bertram Field, Saltonstall School and Bentley School. From the very first meeting, we knew that wind was one of the primary objectives of our task force, said Cindy Keegan, a Salem resident and private environmental consultant who chairs the new group. Salem has a very good wind resource. To not take advantage of it, or at least see if it is possible, was silly. A big wind turbine in Salem, even its backers concede, is years away. But there are reasons, they say, to explore the possibility. The price the city pays for electricity went up 50 percent this year. It will cost $1.4 million alone to power the city schools next year. Its definitely PC, Mayor Kim Driscoll said of her interest in wind power, but I think theres real value for us to see whether PC can turn into dollar savings. Really taking off Salem is not the only community investigating. Over 40 cities and towns are exploring wind projects, said Chris Kealey, a spokesman for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative, a quasi-public economic development agency that provides financing and technical assistance for renewable energy projects. The city filed its wind turbine application with the agency. The agency works with large companies, like Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates in Gloucester, which is seeking city approval to erect two large turbines that will supply half of its electricity. The agency also works with homeowners, offering rebates and tax incentives. Our wind and solar rebates have really taken off, Kealey said. We are seeing an increase, a dramatic increase in the interest in wind (turbines) for homeowners. Thomas Dowd of Beverly, who runs North Shore Solar & Windpower, supplied the wind turbine for Groom, the Salem company on Swampscott Road, and also has residential customers. Business, he says, is good. Were making money, he said. Wind turbines are not new in Salem. The city had windmills more than 300 years ago, and two large wind turbines on the Salem Hospital grounds as recently as two decades ago. The hospital project was abandoned, a hospital spokeswoman said, when it proved hard to service and not economically feasible. But the times might be changing. With global warming in the headlines, there are more private companies, public officials and private citizens paying attention to their carbon footprint. Youre starting to see consumers say, I want to personally offset the damage we do to our environment, said Jonathan Guerster of Groom Energy. In the corporate world, were finding companies starting to do that. City gets greener Since Driscoll took offic

Pat Gozemba Jul 9, 2007 at 9:03 AM
Salem MA PGozemba