Nauset High moves ahead with wind turbine plan
By Debi Boucher Stetson
Tue May 19, 2009, 06:00 AM EDT
EASTHAM – Nauset Regional High School is closing in on its goal of raising $45,000 to match a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to design and construct a wind turbine on the school campus.
School officials envision saving close to $200,000 a year by having the school generate its own electricity, plus make money from the sale of excess electricity.
High school Principal Tom Conrad told the regional school committee last week that funds raised to date totaled “close to $30,000.”
Conrad said later that the turbine would probably be sited right behind the tennis courts “because that’s the farthest spot from our neighbors. We want to be sensitive,” he added.
Wind turbines have proved controversial in Eastham, where town meeting voters recently passed a new wind power bylaw after considerable debate and revisions. The bylaw allows 75-foot turbines throughout town, 100-foot turbines in the industrial zone on Holmes Road in North Eastham and 250-foot municipal turbines on the 125-acre town-owned parcel between Cable Road, Nauset Road and Ocean View Drive, the road that stretches between two Cape Cod National Seashore beaches. The high school is across the street from the Cable Road portion of the property.
“We had been talking about 343 [feet high],” Conrad told the school committee during a brief discussion on Eastham’s bylaw. “The higher up you go, the better the wind.” He noted that the wind tower at Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Bourne is 243 feet high. Conrad said he has been in touch with an official at Mass Maritime about sharing information regarding the success of their turbine. “They have been going for 18 months, and they have great data for us,” he said.
He said the school district is currently negotiating a contract with Boreal Renewable Energy Development to do a feasibility study and design the turbine. “We want to get on the fast lane for this – these are competitive grants, and we have been warned that if we delay we could lose the grant,” he said.
For that reason, the school is working hard to raise the matching funds. Gretel Norgeot, a parent who has spearheaded the fund-raising effort, said a letter to parents explaining the wind turbine project and appealing for donations will be sent home with high school students soon. (The letter has been approved by Nauset Regional School Committee.)
Norgeot said any size donation is welcome. “We have received many $25 donations and they all add up,” she said. She added that organizers would prefer many small donations to seeking out large donations, because receiving a large number of donations would demonstrate broad community support. “That’s what it’s all about, community,” she said. “We thought it was really important to get everybody involved.”
Fred Fenlon, Eastham’s representative on Cape Light Compact and a former member of the town’s alternative energy committee, has been working with Conrad on the turbine project and said he believes it will “absolutely” go forward. He noted that technically, the school does not need to comply with the town’s bylaws because the high school’s land was donated by Cape Cod National Seashore. “So it’s not really part of Eastham.”
Conrad indicated the school would try to work with the town’s bylaw. “The town has taken a new stand in terms of height, and we’re going to be looking at that to see what that means for us,” he said.
The wind turbine, he said, will be used as an educational tool in a number of different ways, starting with getting students involved in interpreting data from the feasibility study. “Next year we’ll offer a renewable energy course and with that will be wind turbines. From there I see it being integrated into all the subject areas – for instance, math.”
Fenlon said the educational aspect of a high school wind turbine is especially important today, because wind energy is an emerging field. “There are going to be people needed, and they have to be educated and trained, and hopefully they’ll be from the Cape,” he said, “and hopefully they’ll stay here, and raise families.”