Monday December 3, 2012

OTIS -- After completing the first half of a feasibility study, Otis is progressing on a plan to finance its own wind turbine that would power town government buildings and allow it to sell power to neighboring communities to produce extra revenue.

Town officials are working with consultant Sustainable Energy De velopments Inc. (SED) of Ontario, N.Y., to assess the feasibility of the local power project.

The project would cost about $6.5 million, which Town Administrator Christopher Morris said could be financed through a bond that would increase the property tax rate. The bond issue would require voter approval.

The bond could come up for a vote as early as this spring, Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Roberta Sarnacki said.

Sarnacki said that she bought into the initative after seeing the success of wind turbines at Jiminy Peak in Hancock and at Williams Stone Co. in Otis.

Morris said the wind turbine would allow the town to sell power and reduce the town’s dependence on property taxes for revenue.

A financing and business plan and acoustic sound study are some of the next steps being explored.

"It’s pretty innovative for a small town out in the boonies," Morris said.

Otis, a rural town surrounded by natural recreational activities, took advantage of a state clean energy grant to cover 96 percent of the cost associated with the $65,000 feasibility study.

Town officials liked what they saw. The study showed that the town is in a prime location for a wind turbine, SED Project Manager Matt Vanderbrook said.

Morris said that three wind turbines -- financing for only one is being proposed -- would be able to produce enough power for the entire town.

On the town’s east side, Ed Williams, of Williams Stone Co., said a wind turbine on his business property has generated more than twice the amount of energy he needs -- or about 600 megawatts. It’s a three-blade turbine that sits atop a 220-foot tower.

According to the company’s website, the granite curbing company has reduced the operation’s cost by $172,000 annually. The turbine cost $1.7 million -- which was partially financed using public grant funds -- will pay for itself in eight years "max," Williams said.

"I am not trying to convince the world," said Williams, a proponent of the wind turbine project. "It’s going to happen somewhere. Better you do it than someone else does."

Vanderbrook, the consultant, said different wind turbine models are being explored, but he said the turbine could possibly be as tall as 410 feet.

Vanderbrook said that the town is still examining locations, although it’s likely to be near the turbine located at Williams Stone Co.

Town officials are negotiating with Williams Stone Co. about land on his property.

Morris said that "five or six towns" had been approached about possibly purchasing power from Otis, with several towns, including Great Barr ington, expressing interest.

Communities have had wind mills financed by other entities, but Morris said that the town is planning to finance this wind turbine so that taxpayers get the most out of the project.

"We’re taking out the middle man and doing it ourselves," Morris said.

To contact John Sakata:
jsakata@berkshireeagle.com
or (413)496-6240.
On Twitter: @jsakata.