Frequently Asked Questions: Wind Turbine Project

Istock

Learn More

Download Trustees 2017, our 10-Year Strategic Plan.

Our Climate Action Plan: How we are working to reduce our carbon footprint.

Get more facts about wind at:

• American Wind Energy Association 

Mass DEP Wind Turbine Health Impact Study


The Trustees of Reservations have completed a feasibility study and received planning board approval for the construction and commissioning of a wind turbine at Turkey Hill, which is part of the organization's Whitney and Thayer Woods reservation in Cohasset, Massachusetts. We wanted to share details of the project as well as answers to frequently asked questions.

The Trustees and Sustainability
Basic Issues
The Turkey Hill Site
Local Matters
Environmental Issues
Safety
Finance
Learning More

The Trustees and Sustainability

back to top

Why are the Trustees pursuing a wind energy project?
For more than 100 years, The Trustees have led by example in the protection and exemplary care of special places across Massachusetts. We are passionate about ensuring that places like Crane Beach, World's End, Cape Poge, Appleton Farms, Monument Mountain, and Whitney and Thayer Woods are here for people to enjoy now and for generations to come.

But our special places are just the starting point, a means of inspiring people to care and to take action for the places that make Massachusetts the place we want to call home. With this project, we are taking that opportunity – indeed, that responsibility – one step further. By demonstrating the appropriate use of conservation land for wind turbines, we are leading by example in a new way – hoping to inspire people to take action not just for a healthy, active, and green Massachusetts, but for a healthier planet.

For decades, we could safeguard our natural areas simply by acquiring the land and managing it effectively. The threat posed today by climate change requires bolder and broader action. The climate in Massachusetts is already warming – and this warming is putting stress on our forests and other ecosystems. Precisely because we are an organization with a 120-year history, we take the long view. We are concerned, not just with the next 10 years, but with the next 100. As we look ahead, it is clear that climate change will almost certainly alter Massachusetts’ landscapes and landmarks forever.

But there is still time to affect how much they will be changed. To prevent devastating changes to the places we all love, we must all come together to find progressive ways to live and work more sustainably in order to ensure the health and vitality of our communities and our open space lands now, and for the future.

Apart from the issues – and debates – surrounding climate change, we believe that living and working sustainably has significant economic, ecological, and societal advantages, including the creation of “green jobs,” reduced pollution, conservation and protection of vital water resources, and the achievement of national energy security.

Ultimately, we believe that the future costs of inaction will be far more expensive than taking smart, effective action now. By carefully – and responsibly – developing wind energy as a resource on Turkey Hill, we believe that we are living up to our fundamental mission as a conservation organization and helping our communities remain healthy, active, and green far into the future.

Is the wind turbine part of an overall sustainability plan?
The Trustees are committed to becoming carbon neutral and significantly more sustainable across all of our operations. We have already reduced our carbon footprint by 15 percent over the past several years by changing how we operate. To date, we have:

  • Conducted energy audits at our facilities;
  • Installed compact fluorescent light bulbs and weatherstripping, and added building insulation;
  • Improved the management of our farmland and dairy operations;
  • Started recycling and composting programs at most of our properties;
  • Implemented a videoconferencing system to reduce the need for travel between our main campuses and regional offices;
  • Switched to biodiesel-fueled trucks;
  • Installed energy-efficient lighting in all facilities;
  • Switched to computerized thermostats in our buildings;
  • Installed solar panels at several of our facilities;
  • Reduced mowing on several of our properties;
  • Pursued “green” renovations of our buildings, including seeking LEED-gold certification on three renovation projects.

Even with these changes, we know that we need to do more, especially if we want to lead by example as the nation's oldest regional land trust and recognized model among land conservation organizations nationwide. Installing a wind turbine on Turkey Hill at Whitney and Thayer Woods will not only offset our entire remaining carbon footprint, but will also serve as a way to educate visitors and the public about the benefits of clean, renewable wind energy.

Basic Issues

back to top

What are the key facts regarding the Turkey Hill wind turbine?

  • The turbine will be located just south of the cell towers on Turkey Hill at The Trustees’ Whitney and Thayer Woods reservation in Cohasset.
  • It will stand 410 feet from its base to the highest vertically extended blade.
  • The electrical output of the turbine will be approximately 1.8 megawatts.
  • It will produce approximately 5,000,000 kWh (kilowatt hours) annually, enough to power more than 700 average Massachusetts homes.
  • Before proceeding with the project, The Trustees of Reservations commissioned a state-funded study to determine feasibility. The study concluded that the Turkey Hill location is optimal for wind power generation.
  • The total cost of the project is projected at approximately $6 million, financed and supported by a combination of state grants, federal tax credits, and both public and private investment.
  • Overall, the project will provide cost savings and operational efficiencies while moving The Trustees of Reservations significantly forward toward its goal of a carbon-neutral operation and organization-wide sustainability.

What is the status of the project?
With the completion of a feasibility study by Applied Science Associates, Inc., (ASA), The Trustees presented the project proposal to the Town of Cohasset Planning Board in November of 2011, and to the Conservation Commission in December. The Planning Board voted unanimously in favor of the project. We are currently awaiting final approvals before proceeding with the commissioning and construction of the turbine.

How will the wind turbine benefit The Trustees?
The Trustees expect that the wind turbine will offset the organization’s entire carbon footprint, with surplus energy leftover to sell back to “the grid” through a widely accepted process known as “net metering.” We are currently proposing to sell power and renewable energy credits (RECs) to one of the major investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts looking to provide “green” energy for its customers.

How will the wind turbine benefit the town of Cohasset?
Benefits of the turbine include tax revenue to the Town of Cohasset. As a source of “earned income” for The Trustees, the turbine is a taxable property.

The Turkey Hill Site

back to top

Why did The Trustees select Turkey Hill for the site of the turbine?
The Trustees reviewed sites on all of our reservations across the state in order to determine if any of them might be suitable for a large wind turbine. Upon completion of this review, Turkey Hill at Whitney and Thayer Woods (comprising a total of 847 acres in Hingham and Cohasset) was determined to be an ideal site based on the quality of the wind, the community’s interest in wind production, and the relatively secluded nature of the site, which will reduce its impact on nearby residents.

In addition, while Turkey Hill is a beautiful place today, it has a long history of industrial use, which means that a project such as this will have minimal environmental disturbance. The Trustees believe in the appropriate siting of renewable power including on conservation land where appropriate. Turkey Hill’s land-use history was one of the considerations when determining that it was an appropriate site for a turbine of this size.

How do you know a turbine is feasible on Turkey Hill?
The Trustees have worked with Applied Science Associates, Inc., (ASA) to complete a study evaluating feasibility of the project. ASA was selected after The Trustees evaluated a number of firms due to the caliber of their team and their experience with turbine siting in Rhode Island. The study was funded largely through a grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The comprehensive assessment evaluated all of the relevant issues that influence the technical and economic viability of a wind project including environmental compatibility, sufficient wind energy resource, available electrical interconnection, and economics.

The study also found that the turbine project can help The Trustees meet our goal of becoming carbon neutral, and that the Turkey Hill site is optimal for such a wind project.

  The criteria included:

  • Wind: The site has been found to be very favorable for wind generation.
  • Fall down zone: The current siting for turbine places the “fall down” zone within the boundaries of The Trustees’ property and within Cohasset.
  • Housing: The closest residence to the turbine site is the Golden Living Center, which is located 1,000 feet away at the Turkey Hill property boundary line. Only one other residence is nearby: 1,200 feet from the site is a house owned and leased by the town of Hingham (and located on the Hingham portion of the property). The closest residential home in Hingham is 2,200 feet from the site.
  • Noise: The decibel levels from the tower are expected to be significantly less than state guidelines.
  • Shadow/flicker: A shadow flicker analysis was performed in the feasibility study and it was determined that it would not be of major concern to the community. 
  • Environmental: There are no documented endangered species in the area, no cultural or historical resources in the immediate area, and no direct impact on nearby wetlands. 
  • Other: Deliveries of the turbines, access to the site, the steep grade of the site, and connection to the power grid were also addressed.  

How tall will the turbine be?
The proposed wind turbine will be 410 feet. In compliance with the Town of Cohasset wind bylaws, no significant visual impact on the view from the property is expected. Such turbines are now the standard since the tall height helps avoid “wind turbulence” created by surrounding buildings or trees, and the slow turning speed of the blades minimizes potential impacts on birds.

Local matters

back to top

How do the Cohasset Town bylaws affect the turbine project?
The Trustees turbine project fully meets the requirements of the current bylaws, which allow turbines in all zoning districts if they receive a special permit through a process overseen by the Cohasset Planning Board.

The Cohasset Planning Board recently rejected another wind energy proposal; why would the town approve The Trustees' turbine?
Based on the location of the originally proposed pair of turbines (which were estimated to be 55 feet taller than our proposed turbine) there were more significant visual, noise and shadow flicker concerns because it was sited near a residential area and proposed apartment complex. In contrast, The Trustees’ Turkey Hill turbine will be 1,000 feet away from the nearest residence, the Golden Living Facility, which meets state requirements and the industry’s best practices for turbine siting.

Environmental Issues

back to top

What are the possible environmental impacts?
The project feasibility study determined that the project will have a very minor impact on the environmental conditions of the surrounding land. In addition, the conditions of approval set by the Cohasset Planning Board include a number of provisions that address environmental impact.

  • The study found that the project will meet the Massachusetts state criteria for noise.
  • A “shadow flicker” analysis showed that the proposed turbine will have a modest impact that will likely be lessened by surrounding foliage, and new plantings at The Trustees’ property. The Planning Board's conditions of approval require that the turbine produce no more than 30 minutes of flicker per day or 30 hours of flicker per year.
  • Based on a desktop survey, there are no environmental conditions – such as endangered species, archaeological, avian and bat – that would prevent the permitting of the project. 
  • According to a field wetlands survey, the turbine development and construction area will be entirely outside recommended buffer zones.

What is the potential impact on bats, birds, and other wildlife?
Based on the ASA feasibility survey, the proposed wind turbine will have negligible effect on endangered species, birds or bats. Current research on avian impact indicates that the use of blinking lights rather than steady lights has proven effective in minimizing bird collisions. Research also indicates that bat fatalities from collision with turbine blades are greater on inland ridges than along coastal areas such as Cohasset.

For more information about the birds and turbines, visit the American Bird Conservatory.

What would the impacts be on the surrounding communications towers?
An analysis of the potential impact of the wind turbine on two communications towers on Turkey Hill has also been performed. The towers provide microwave, land mobile, paging, and mobile phone operations to the surrounding area. The proposed site will not impact communications or telecommunication services.

What are the potential noise factors?
A noise study was performed based on a field background noise measurement. Based on that study, it was determined that the project will meet the state noise criteria – and that decibel levels will in fact be significantly lower than state guidelines. The wind turbine will emit a low-frequency sound that will be audible at some of the nearest noise-sensitive uses, but most of the surrounding community in the study area is anticipated to experience marginal increases in noise levels.

What are the shadow flicker (strobe-like light) impacts of the proposed turbine?
A shadow flicker analysis was performed as part of the feasibility study. It was determined that shadow flicker would not be of major concern to the community. While there are no regulations on maximum exposure levels, the goal of most turbines is to reduce anticipated levels to less than 30hrs/year at permanent residences. This is the requirement set by the Planning Board's conditions of approval.

Shadow flicker is dissipated by distance, so for residences located a half mile or more away, the amount of flicker will be very small or nonexistent.

Will the turbine have a night strobe?
No, the turbine will not have a night strobe. We anticipate that it will have a red light to alert aircraft in the area to the presence of the turbine. 

Safety

back to top

Will the Turkey Hill Wind Turbine be safe?
In 20 years of operation, the wind industry has recorded only one death of a member of the public – a German skydiver who parachuted off-course into an operating wind plant. “Blade throws” were common in the industry's early years, but are unheard of-today because of better turbine design and engineering. “Ice throw” can occur, but it poses little danger because setbacks typically required to minimize noise (see above) are sufficient to protect against danger to the public. To ensure the safety of walkers and hikers at Turkey Hill in winter, The Trustees will re-route existing trails away from the turbine site. In addition, ice buildup slows a turbine's rotation and will be sensed by a turbine's control system, causing the turbine to shut down.

Are there any hazards to air navigation?
Logan Airport, located approximately 11 miles northwest of the site, is the closest airport to the Turkey. The Trustees submitted an application to the FAA based on a 427-foot turbine. The FAA conducted an aeronautical study, which revealed that the structure would not exceed obstruction standards and would not be a hazard to air navigation.

Can stray voltage harm livestock, wildlife…or people?
No. There is nothing unusual about managing the electricity flow from an operating wind plant. Standard electric wiring practices are adequate to prevent stray voltage from occurring.

Finance

 back to top

How will The Trustees finance this project and use the profits?
As the owner, The Trustees will realize a long-term revenue source that will provide income to support our critical conservation work on the South Shore and across the Commonwealth. In the short term all the net proceeds from the sale of the renewable energy credits and favorable rates for selling power will pay principle and interest on loans and pay investors. It will be a number of years before The Trustees realize actual profits from the turbine.

The total project cost is currently projected at approximately $6 million. The project will attract capital from investors looking to take advantage of renewable energy tax credits and accelerated depreciation. Other debt is expected to be financed over the life of the turbine.

To date, The Trustees have received two grants from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (Mass CEC), a $45,000 grant in June of 2010 an additional $260,000 grant in November of 2010 for design and construction. Mass CEC awarded grants supporting 18 new wind energy projects under the Commonwealth Wind Community Scale Wind Initiative last June. According to State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles, these grants will allow communities and institutions to reduce their use of fossil fuels, as well as help the Commonwealth reach Governor Patrick’s goal of developing 2,000 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2020.

How can a nonprofit like The Trustees create a for-profit business like this?
As a 501C3 nonprofit, The Trustees are allowed to develop sources of taxable earned income not directly related to its core mission of conservation and preservation. The Trustees have created a separate company, Conservation Wind, LP which is taxable and will be required to make all required national, state, and local taxes associated with the Turkey Hill turbine.

Learning more

 back to top

Where can I learn more about wind energy?
Visit the website of the American Wind Energy Association to get objective information about the benefits and any potential drawbacks of wind energy.

How can members of The Trustees stay up to date on this project?
The Trustees will be communicating regularly about this project to its members in the towns of Cohasset, Hingham, Hull, Scituate, Norwell, and Weymouth. Moreover, there will be special events so that visitors to Turkey Hill and Weir River Farm can tour the site, ask questions, and see firsthand what it’s all about. The Trustees website and our member magazine Special Places will also feature updates. You can also sign up to receive updates by email by clicking here.

What is being done to keep the local community informed?
The Trustees have been members of Cohasset and surrounding communities for decades, and we take our roles as responsible neighbor and organizational citizen very seriously. We are committed to keeping the community fully informed about this project. We have already conducted community information sessions in the towns of Cohasset and Hingham, with more planned at regular intervals as the project moves forward. In addition, we will be working with the local news media to help the community understand the project and stay informed of the latest developments. Regional Trustees management and local staff at Turkey Hill or Weir River Farm are available to answer any questions.