It looks like a couple of white metal barrels with slats cut out. It spins in the wind and makes electricity. Not a propeller-style wind turbine, it makes less noise and doesn't interfere with radio signals.
You might see one soon on a hill off Route 44.
Monday night the Planning bBard recommended that the Zoning Board approve a permit to allow Jim Sweeney and Sustainable New Energy erect such a turbine on land leased from the Almeida family in North Plymouth. The 79-foot tower would help power a potential clean energy center on the site, but more than power generation, Sweeney wants visibility from the turbine.
Sweeney presented the proposal as a demonstration project. After the meeting, he elaborated.
"Hopefully, once Plymouth gets used to these, the cost will come down," he said.
The proposed turbine would generate approximately $2,000 worth of electricity. It has an initial cost of $45,000. That includes the hardware, the ground lease, the installation.
It also includes $20,000 in permitting costs.
Anyone in Plymouth can erect a wind turbine with a total height of 35 feet with nothing more than a building permit. A solar panel would generate the same or more electricity, because the real wind power exists higher up.
Commercial turbines more than 100 feet tall require extensive engineering and public scrutiny.
Plymouth has a bylaw, the Wind Energy Conversion System (WECS) bylaw for towers between 35 and 100 feet tall. It requires a proponent apply for a building permit, get denied, then apply for a special permit from the zoning board. The Zoning Board requires a recommendation from the Planning Board, which requires recommendations from the affected village steering committees.
That means the proponent must pay for environmental studies to certify the project will not harm endangered or threatened species, a sound study to establish possible noise pollution, 120 pages of drawing of the structure and a site plan, all with certifications from licensed engineers. The proponent needs an attorney to present the plan to the various boards and must pay fees to the town to cover the cost of reviewing the plans.
"Permitting costs more than the turbine itself," Sweeney said.
The owners of Colony Place have begun an even more extensive permitting process for a large wind turbine located near the Route 44/Commerce Way interchange. Colony Place developer Gary Darmon initially named the retail center "Plymouth Gateway." Sweeney hopes travellers from the west will see a Plymouth wind energy gateway, with two types of turbines on either side of the highway.
"Any public building in town can use one of these," Sweeney said. "Most lighting at shopping malls is on poles 50 feet high. Each of them costs $20,000. Add a little more and, at 60 feet, you have something that will pay for the lights."
Sweeney has an agreement to lease space from Steve Almeida, of Almeida's Used Cars and Parts, on which to place the turbine. Sergio Quadros of Cleanergie also has a lease with Almeida to build a sustainable energy center on the site.
"It will turn a brownfield into a greenfield," Quadros told the planning board Monday night.
Quadros polled the neighbors about their opinion of the turbine. The neighbors consist of the extended Almeida family, WPLM and Concord Electric Supply. He said one Almeida relative still had some concerns about noise, that the engineer at WPLM determined the turbine would not interfere with the radio station's signal and that Concord had interest in the project as something it could promote to customers.
No one appeared at the public hearing to speak in opposition to the proposal.
The Zoning Board will hear the petition March 16.
For more information, visit Sustainable New Energy at http://www.snenergy.com/ and Cleanergie at http://www.cleanergie.com/.
In other business, the planning board endorsed a proposal of the community preservation committee to rennovate the Simes House on Manomet Point Road. The plans for the historic building show repointing of the two chimneys, the addition of an elevator and stairwell at the rear of the building, a Manomet museum and community room on the first floor, offices on the second and a caretaker's apartment on the third.
The board appointed James A. Bennedict and Nina Peters to the Plymouth center village steering committee.
The board approved a subdivision plan to allow the car dealership under construction at 9 Long Pond Road to purchase two acres from Viking Development located beside The Home Depot and store excess inventory there. As part of the plan, Viking will donate to the town five acres of undeveloped land it owns in the zone of contribution of the Lout Pond Well to the north of the shopping center.