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Scarborough's first wind turbine powered up

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Scarborough's first wind turbine powered up

SCARBOROUGH — On July 23 – the day after the Town Council passed an ordinance governing small wind energy systems – Ferry Road resident Scott Doherty obtained a permit from town hall to install one.

He'd been waiting since early May, after Southwest Windpower's southern Maine dealer, Mike Manning, of MGM Builders, had been ordered to stop work on the installation of a wind turbine on Doherty's half-acre property. Manning had already run the wiring from the house and poured the cement foundation when code enforcement stopped the project after receiving complaints from some of the neighbors.

Although he knew at the time that there was no ordinance in place, Doherty was aware the town was considering adopting one similar to Cape Elizabeth's and knew his would qualify under those guidelines.

And, he figured, if there was no code in place to enforce, how could the town stop him?

Now, the 45-foot silver turbine, anchored to a foundation that was poured to a depth of 10 feet below ground level, points skyward, its three narrow blades ready to catch the optimal northwest winds that will generate electricity.

Doherty said he needs a steady wind of about 10 miles per hour to turn the blades. They begin to charge at 13 miles per hour and maximum output is at 20 miles per hour and above.

Once the foundation was in place, it took Manning just under two hours to erect the system and bolt it in place.

"It isn't going to fall over – it's rated for 160-mile-per-hour winds," Doherty said.

On the day Doherty was showing off his turbine, it sat motionless in the prevailing southwest breezes.

"There will be days when it will be charging steady and I see my meter going backwards; it's a gamble," he said.

When in motion, the turbine makes only a slight whooshing sound, Doherty said, that is barely audible even when he's out in the yard.

The system cost Doherty $17,000, including installation. With a 30 percent rebate of the installed cost from the federal government, the net cost was significantly less.

In addition to energy, Doherty's turbine has generated a lot of interest. A number of people have stopped by to take a look and ask him questions, he said. And several have offered to buy it if he changes his mind.

But the Town Council may be reconsidering the ordinance at its Aug. 19 meeting.

Several residents, one with legal representation, had opposed the ordinance as written for various reasons, including noise, height, setback and safety. But after midnight at the July 23 meeting, councilors voted approval of the ordinance.

According to Council Chairman Mike Wood, Councilor Judy Roy, as one of five councilors who voted in favor of the ordinance, has requested it be placed on the next agenda. Under council rules, any councilor who voted with the majority can make a motion to reconsider a previous vote.

Wood, who was the sole councilor to vote against the ordinance as written, said at the July meeting he thought it needed more tweaking.

No matter the outcome, Doherty's turbine is safe, grandfathered under the ordinance that existed at the time of its installation, Wood said.

And so far, no one else in Scarborough has applied for a permit to install a wind turbine, said Code Enforcement Officer Dave Grysk.

Peggy Roberts can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or proberts@theforecaster.net.

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Photo:
Scarborough resident Scott Doherty stands in front of his newly-erected wind turbine at his Ferry Road home. He had initially been ordered to stop the installation but when the council passed an ordinance that governed the small wind energy systems he went to town hall the next day to get the permit. (Roberts photo)