For the second time this week, Chilmark residents confronted increasing demands to reduce personal energy usage when the first proposal for a residential wind turbine in town came on Tuesday before the zoning board of appeals.
Chilmark resident Robert Green appeared before the regular monthly meeting of the board with his proposed contractor, Gary Harcourt, to request a permit to build a 114-foot turbine on his Old Farm road property.
“This is not a swimming pool or a tennis court,” Mr. Green told the board. “It is not a luxury item, but a small attempt to decrease our reliance on oil and other nonrenewable sources of energy.”
A town bylaw requires special permits for windmills from the zoning board of appeals. The bylaw allows the construction of windmills on the condition that the height and location of the structure do not interfere with the rights of abutters to enjoy their property.
Before appearing in front of the board, Mr. Green and his wife, Happy, notified both abutters as well as members of the Old Farm Road Association of their proposal. “We tried to talk with as many people as we could,” Mr. Green told the board.
The primary concerns with turbines are noise level and height, Mr. Green explained, but the proposed location for the turbine is at least 500 feet from the closest houses and the intended model is known for its low-noise level.
“The noise of this machine could be described as background noise, similar to that of a refrigerator,” he said. “As you move away, the noise level decreases.”
On Tuesday, neighbors and townspeople turned out to voice their support for and concern over the project. Although noise was a concern, the primary topic of discussion was visual impact.
“We don’t have a big water view. This would be right there,” abutter Carole Cohen said.
Not all neighbors were equally concerned. Vera Pratt, who lives at 128 Old Farm Road, wrote a letter to the board and attended the meeting to voice her approval. “I agree entirely with his effort,” Mrs. Pratt said.
Mrs. Cohen and her husband, Jordan, own two properties abutting the Green property. Their house sits on one property, at 16 Tennis Lane, and the second property is vacant. The proposed site is 145 feet from the property line of the vacant lot. The Cohens argued that a wind turbine could potentially affect the cost of the property should they decide to sell or interrupt a view should they build.
The board agreed. “You are potentially impacting someone else’s future home,” chairman Bill Rossi said. “Perhaps you should have it more impacting to you than to someone else.”
The board asked Mr. Green to consider siting the turbine 200 feet closer to his own home and continued the public hearing until their next meeting on Oct. 9.
Certain areas of the Island, particularly those along the South shore, are optimal for utilizing wind energy. To make the most of wind energy, a wind turbine should sit at least 30 feet above tree lines.
The Green property is not at the top of a hill and has a number of tall trees, making it not the most ideal site for a turbine, but the open field in which it is proposed to stand would capitalize on any wind coming through. Moving the turbine closer to the house could reduce the efficiency and may also require that the structure be taller than originally proposed, said Mr. Harcourt, owner of Great Rock Windpower.
The model proposed by the Greens is expected to generate 4.24 kilowatts of energy dependent on the wind. Following the meeting, Mr. Harcourt said the turbine could generate between 700 and 800 kilowatt hours per month at the proposed site. He estimated that the average Vineyard home uses somewhere around 800 kilowatts per month.
The turbine costs roughly $40,000, but once installed, the Greens can expect a $10,000 rebate from the Massachusetts Technology Collaboration.
Wind turbines as an alternative energy source are gaining popularity both on Island and off. Mr. Harcourt installed an 85-foot wind turbine on his Oak Bluffs property last year and counted at least two additional modern turbines on the Island, one at the high school and one at South Mountain Company.
In coming weeks, more proposals will make their way to Island boards. A second Chilmark resident is already on the agenda for the October meeting of the zoning board and Mr. Harcourt is also working with clients in Edgartown and West Tisbury. “Wind power on the Island is the easiest way to make a dent in our carbon footprint,” he said.