Aquinnah selectmen this week raced to prepare language for a new bylaw aimed at regulating wind turbines that is due for review by the Martha’s Vineyard Commission early next month and for voters at the annual town meeting on May 13.
A public hearing is scheduled before the town planning board on May 5; the commission will hold its own public hearing on May 8.
The draft bylaw is aimed at creating regulations for a townwide energy district of critical planning concern (DCPC) which went into effect last December.
A limited moratorium for any structure over 32 feet in height will remain in place throughout the town until the commission approves the bylaw language, possibly next month.
Draft regulations in the bylaw would allow turbines for homeowners, groups of homeowners sharing a single wind turbine and for a municipal turbine on town land.
At a three-hour public meeting on Monday night, Rob Meyers of the South Mountain Co. in West Tisbury and Gary Harcourt, co-owner of Great Rock Wind Power in Oak Bluffs, both of whom have wind turbine construction experience, critiqued the draft wind regulations for the townwide energy district — the first of its kind on the Island. Also attending was Kate Warner, director of the Vineyard Energy Project.
Issues under discussion include size, height and capacity of turbines, as well as setback requirements called for in the draft regulations.
The town wind committee has defined small homeowner turbines as less than 30 kilowatts, medium homeowner group turbines as 30 to 500 kilowatts and large municipal turbines as more than 500 kilowatts.
Selectman Camille Rose said the town hopes to become a municipal energy producer and sell excess power to create revenue. The town has proposed building a 1.5-megawatt, 368-foot-high turbine, similar to one at Jiminy Peak ski resort in Hancock which produces enough power to supply 613 homes with electricity for a year. Aquinnah has 463 year-round and seasonal homes.
The town proposal is still in the earliest stages of discussion.
A preliminary survey by Global Energy Concepts prepared for the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative finds that Aquinnah has excellent wind resources but some potential stumbling blocks to wind power development, including the town’s ability to site a wind turbine as large as some town planners want. The report recommends a 250-foot-high, 600-megawatt tower.
The Massachusetts Technology Collaborative is a quasi-state agency that acts as a consultant to towns on wind projects, providing testing and feasibility work and help with grants,
Released March 3, the report found that Island roads will not allow transport of the turbine from Vineyard Haven to Aquinnah. It also questions whether town residents will accept a turbine near the Aquinnah cliffs. Turbine parts for a 600 megawatt tower are more than 90 feet long and for a 1.5 megawatt are more than 100 feet long.
”My view is Aquinnah has excellent wind resources,” said Chris Clark, senior project manager for the collaborative in a recent interview about the report.
Mr. Clark said the collaborative plans to review the report with consultants at Global Energy Concepts.
The Aquinnah project, he said, “has its challenges but every project has challenges. The community wants to pursue a large scale project and the Aquinnah cliff area would be the appropriate site if the town can get community acceptance [for the site].”
Despite the perceived drawbacks, the report recommends siting a wind testing turbine in the cliff area.
It also recommends that a temporary 180-foot-high wind monitoring tower be placed at either the town parking lot near the Vanderhoop homestead, in the backyard of the homestead building or off the circle near the Cliffs.
“They [Global Energy Concepts] are doing their job which is to discover any fatal flaws in the project. We do not believe there are any,” said Ms. Rose.