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Quincy resident looks to get city's first residential wind turbine

Posted by Jessica Bartlett  March 21, 2011 10:57 AM

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Quincy resident Charles Cote already has sun panels on the roof of his house – something that accounts for 50 percent of his household’s energy - and if things work in his favor, he’ll also be getting a wind turbine.

The first of its kind in Quincy, Cote is looking to install a 10-foot tall residential wind turbine on the roof of his house – a $10,000 project that would provide an additional 25 percent of his house’s power.

The project is in its initial stages, said Ward One City Councilor Margaret Laforest, and a community meeting this week will be the true test of how neighbors feel about the project.

“I don’t know if there is concern, but there is a lot of interest,” Laforest said. “The meeting will give an education of what this is, how it will work, what the impacts will be, and answer a lot of the questions.”

Post Island Road, where Cote lives and hopes to put his turbine, sits at the entrance of Hough’s Neck. It’s an area blustery with wind even on sunny days, and as a result, the area is poised for renewable energy expansion, with wind in particular, Laforest said.

All in all, the direction this turbine takes will set the stage for the future of residential wind expansion in Quincy, especially when it comes to Quincy’s bylaws.

Although Quincy passed bylaws governing the rules and regulations involved in wind turbine construction, the Zoning Board of Appeals currently has no ordinances involving residential turbines.

The council will be reviewing the turbine ordinance to include residential restrictions sometime in the next month as they make their way through a re-evaluation of all zoning ordinances, Laforest said.

First things first, however – Cote must first figure out how his neighbors feel about the project.

“I suspect there will be people opposing it, and there will be people who don’t understand what its all about. They have heard the incorrect info and don’t have the full knowledge of what we’re proposing,” Cote said.

According to the website, the Sun Wind LLC SWIFT turbine is a quiet, pole-mounted turbine that sits attached to the house. At its peak wind speed, it produces a sound no more than 35 decibels – about as loud as a refrigerator hum.

The apparatus also won’t be at risk of toppling over, Cote said, as the 30-60 foot pole would be attached to the home itself, with only 10 feet of pole rising above the roof.

“Our plan was to put two of these in, but what we’d like to do is put one in, see if it performs for six months they way they say it does, and then we’d put a second in on the north end of our house, far away from anybody,” Cote said. “The one we’re proposing first is on the back of our house, away from the street, on the water side.”

Although the 7-foot wide turbine, which looks like a wheel attached to a pole, would be visible from the road, it is no different from a satellite dish, or the old-school antennas far before cable TV, Laforest said.

“This is something attached to a home, similar to a satellite dishes. And no one is worried about satellite dishes falling,” Laforest said.

Timothy Holmes, a representative for Sun Wind LLC, will come speak at the meeting about the project to answer any questions residents have, and although some neighbors have their concerns, overall the feedback thus far has been positive, Laforest said.

“The neighbors themselves have offered a lot of support,” Laforest said. “They are interested in seeing … will this work out.”

Although Laforest is hopeful that this project will be the springboard for other residential turbines, town ordinance guidelines and the limited governmental payback, will most likely slow down the uptake.

“What is the payback…financially, it’s about $10,000 for a unit. Is that something people want to pay to take advantage of renewables? Solar [energy] has a 35 percent payback, wind has 4 … so it isn’t as attractive,” Laforest said.

It’s a reality Cote agrees with. Although the solar panels on his house cost $39,000, it will take less time to pay off than the $10,000 turbine because of governmental subsidies and energy returns, Cote said.

However according to Laforest, Professor Mark Bobrowski, a zoning expert and professor at New England School of Law who is advising the city council about the zoning ordinance restructuring, mentioned that soon residential turbines would work in a similar fashion to solar panels, and will have no restrictions.

“[According to Bobrowski], within two years, residential wind will be encouraged,” Laforest said.

If his prediction is true, residents may be more inclined to participate in renewable energy.

It’s an outcome Cote can only hopes for. In the meantime, he and his wife plan to do whatever they can to reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

“That’s what its all about. Look what’s going on in the Middle East, they are killing us with the cost of gas, and the only way to get away from them is to find our own sources of alternative energy,” he said. “It is why I drive a Prius.”

The community meeting will take place at Hough’s Neck Congregational Church on Thursday, March 24 at 7 p.m.

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