Wind Energy Will Pay Electric Bill For Cleanup Of Base
By: Diana T. Barth
The blades of the two new wind turbines erected near the Pave PAWS installation in Sagamore—visible from the Sagamore Bridge—are now turning. The turbines, which are rated to withstand wind speeds of up to 134 miles per hour, are surrounded by trees and located just over 3,000 feet from the nearest home.
Last Friday, officials gathered at the site of one of the new 390-foot machines and cut a ribbon to mark the fact that they are now operational.
The bow on the ribbon was colored Air Force blue and Army green, because the turbines were paid for jointly by those two branches of military service, and will help offset 100 percent of the cost of the environmental cleanup on the Massachusetts Military Reservation.
The Air Force cleanup program alone currently treats 10 plumes of polluted groundwater, pumping and treating more than 10 million gallons of water per day. Those plants use power from conventional power plants that produce air emissions during production. Officials said last week the new turbines, combined with an existing one in the southern section of the MMR, will result in about $1.5 million a year in savings, along with considerable reductions in emissions from power plants.
The two-turbine project cost $9.36 million; return on that investment is expected to take about eight years. All of the electricity to be produced by the turbines will be net-metered, meaning that is will be added to the region’s electrical grid and will offset the costs of the electricity used by the environmental cleanup.
The two new 1.5-megawatt General Electric turbines will work in combination with the 1.5-megawatt Fuhrlander machine in the southwestern area of the MMR. The latter turbine began operating in December 2009. Between that time and August of this year, through net-metering, NStar has credited the Air Force Center for Engineering and the Environment with $588,888.
It took five years to bring the cleanup operation’s first turbine online. The two turbines that went online last week only took two years to permit and construct, as lessons learned from the first machine were applied in permitting and constructing the two new ones, said Rose H. Forbes, the Mashpee resident who acted as AFCEE project manager for all three turbines. As a part of Friday’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Ms. Forbes received the national AFCEE Sustainability Award for her contribution to what is an Air Force-wide commitment to sustainable, renewable energy.
The Sixth Space Warning Squadron, which runs Pave PAWS, is planning to erect two more turbines, which will be located closer to the phased array. Those turbines, funded separately from the cleanup efforts’ turbines, will be used to offset the electrical costs of running the array. That operation can track any incoming missile, but is also used to keep track of the thousands of items located in space.
There are also a number of other renewable energy projects on the MMR. Base officials are considering, for example, installing solar panels on a now-closed landfill area, and the Massachusetts National Cemetery has installed a 50-kilowatt wind turbine on its property. The US Coast Guard uses a geothermal heating and cooling system at one of its hangars and is incorporating geothermal in its new hangar construction project.
New building construction on the MMR is expected to be certified as LEED silver, meaning that it is built to be energy efficient.
The Honorable Erin C. Conaton, undersecretary of the Air Force, said that when she took on her job she had been shocked at the size of the Air Force’s physical footprint. Added together, that footprint is twice the size of New Jersey. In 2010, she said, 6 percent of the energy running those installations was renewable. The goal, she said, is for 25 percent of the energy running Air Force efforts to be renewable by 2025.
Congressman William R. Keating, 10th Congressional District of Massachusetts, expressed his and the state’s commitment to renewable energy, but also complimented the environmental cleanup work that the wind turbines will be fueling.
Curt Spalding, New England regional administrator for the US Environmental Protection Agency, noted that 4,900 clean energy concerns generated 6.7 percent of recent job growth in Massachusetts, a number that is expected to jump to 15 percent next year.
Richard K. Sullivan, Jr., secretary of the commonwealth’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, reiterated the state’s commitment to renewable energy and said the millions of tons of emissions that will be displaced by that energy are “very significant.”
State Representative Randy Hunt (R-Sandwich), who sits on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecomunications, Utilities and Energy, attended the meeting. His committee is looking at wind energy siting issues, including how much control the state should have over that siting.
The base projects, on state land, have had to meet state and federal guidelines, but were exempt from local control.