Everyone loves wind energy until someone wants to put a large turbine in their backyard. Just such a battle is playing out in next to my hometown.
Mark Richey, owner of a large woodworking business located in former plastic bottle plant where I once worked summers during college, has said he will begin erecting a 600- kilowatt 292-foot high turbine this week, weather permitting. That’s despite stiff opposition from neighbors which have appealed the City of Newburyport’s decision to allow the project to proceed.
Richey successfully navigated the sometime uncertain permitting process and received nearly $500,000 in a state grant to offset the cost of tower and turbine, which he claims will provide 80% of the electricity for his plant.
Richey’s enthusiasm for green energy is matched by his determination to see the project completed. He even visited the Elecon plant in India to witness his turbine being built.
Richey has also installed a biomass furnace that he claims saves $15,000 a month on his heating bill in the 130,000 square-foot building which I once helped paint when it was an Owens Illinois plastic bottle plant. The wind turbine will go the left of building in this drawing while the neighbors who find it objectionable are behind the building, across a highway and up a hill.
Neighbors fear issues like vibration, noise and shadow flicker (the video shows its hypnotic effects) from the turbine’s blades will hurt their quality of life and real estate values. The Wind Energy Industry Association has a Myths vs. Facts document that attempts to allay fears such a blade throw which was a problem in the wind energy’s early years (I have not heard and anyone being impaled by wayward turbine blades, but I suppose it could happen).
City fathers created an ordinance setting the ground rules for the wind turbines in the city, but now some city officials want to review it. It should be an interesting week for Mark Richey and the folks who want to derail his well-intentioned plans. Godspeed.