Wind energy makes an attempt in Chester

Posted: March 13, 2009 07:54 AM
By: Eric Fisher

CHESTER, Mass. (abc40) -- The town of Chester has been seeking in install two wind turbines atop Round Hill for several years now. The price tag is 12 million dollars, which is daunting enough. But it turns out that even during the "green" boom in business and policy lately, such a project has some serious hurdles to overcome.

"There are unbelievable challenges here," says Bill Stein, part of the Umass wind research team studying the weather in Chester. "It's ungodly cold today and equipment does not like to run in the cold."

Stein and his team were contracted by Chester to research the town and find the best spot to place the turbines. To do that, they install LIDAR, which is a laser-guided instrument used to measure the wind. It sends a beam up into the air, and the light reflects off of dust particles back to the machine. By using Doppler shift, they can find out how fast the wind is traveling at a particular spot.

"Sometimes a town will come and ask - Will wind power work for us? And we begin the process" says Stein.

He says that in order to make a wind turbine economically feasible, you need at least 13mph of average wind speed over the course of the year. Town Selectman have been following the process, and weighing their financial options.

"Wind sustainability is important," says Selectman Michael Crochiere. "Is there enough wind to give us a decent revenue stream?"

If they built the two turbines, they'd have enough electricity for the entire town. In times when they generate more energy than needed, they could sell it back to the grid. The financial equation is a major factor in whether or not plans like these move forward.

"We're a municipal electric company here in Chester," says Kelly D'Astous, who started the whole project years ago. "That means we're not eligible for Massachusetts Technology Collaborative (MTC) grants.

But they have found other methods to foot the bill. Chester applied for and received a CREB (Clean Renewable Energy Bond) to help with the project. They could also sell RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) if the turbines went up, and also apply for federal Renewable Energy Production Incentives (REPIs). So there are options for those who are interested in following in Chester's footsteps.

Right now, Umass is testing a third and final site. If they can't find 13mph of wind there, they won't be able to build in the town.

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