PORTLAND — An environmental group is hoping to bring wind power to Peaks Island.
It’s the second proposed wind study to come forward in Portland in recent months. The first, on Munjoy Hill, recently met by opposition from neighborhood residents. But the Peaks Island group is hoping to do things differently.
The Peaks Environmental Action Team will be conducting public outreach to find out whether island residents will embrace wind power and whether island and city officials will support the group’s efforts.
PEAT will give a 15-minute presentation to the Peaks Island Council, which functions as a liaison between island residents and the City Council, on Wednesday, Feb. 11, at 6:30 p.m. at the MacVane Community Center. The goal is to educate the council and residents about the different types of wind turbines and garner support for a wind study that could lead to an island wind turbine.
PEAT member Sam Saltonstall said public support is a critical aspect of the plan, as is cooperation between the group, the Peaks Island Council and City Council.
Saltonstall said one of the areas under consideration for a 100-foot meteorological wind tower is Trott-Littlejohn Park, a relatively remote five-acre parcel owned by the city. Saltonstall said there are other, upland areas that could support a tower, but those areas are protected conservation lands.
According to the PEAT report, Maine Audubon Society will also be contacted about the potential impact a turbine would have on bird populations and flight patterns.
However, Saltonstall said the test tower does not necessarily have to be built in the exact location as a wind turbine.
“The wind data can be helpful even if it’s in the general area of the turbine,” he said.
Saltonstall said there are no prejudgements about potential turbine size. The sizes could range from a five-kilowatt residential turbine with a 15-rotor standing 50 to 75 feet high, to a more than one megawatt turbine with a 230-foot rotor standing 225 feet tall.
“(The size) won’t be known until we know what the wind resource is and until we know what kind of support we’re getting from the island,” Saltonstall said.
A U.S. Department of Energy wind map indicates that wind speeds at Peaks Island range from 11.5 to 12.5 mph at roughly 33 feet, to 14.3 to 15.7 mph at about 165 feet. Those wind speeds appear to be enough to support a turbine, according PEAT, which said 9 mph to 30 mph winds are needed.
Saltonstall said the group has been in contact with a private organization that may be willing to install the tower and use the wind study as an educational model, which could save islanders $35,000. The study would take at least a year.
On Tuesday, Feb. 17, Mick Womersley, a Unity College associate professor who runs a wind testing tower loaner program, will present a slide show to islanders at 6 p.m. at the MacVane Community Center.
PEAT is also looking to position itself as a nonprofit organization, which would allow the group to pursue grants to fund a turbine project if the wind study supports one.
There are also several issues that must be resolved before any tower could be placed on city-owned land on the island.
First, the project would have to be approved by the City Council. Then, it must be determined whether the tower would need a zoning variance.
If those issues are dealt with, Saltonstall said there is the matter of who would carry liability insurance on the tower.
Although Portland’s Climate Action Plan encourages implementing alternative energy sources, there is no citywide ordinance regulating turbines. That ordinance is expected to be drafted in the coming months.
The wind study on Peaks Island is the second proposal to surface in recent months. A similar study has been proposed for the East End Community School on Munjoy Hill, but the School Department withdrew its request for a zoning amendment after resident of a nearby condominium complex objected on the basis of a disputed malady called “wind turbine syndrome.”
Former Gov. Angus King, who is a proponent of wind power, said the condominium residents were within their rights to be concerned about a wind turbine being located near their homes. However, King said that an open, honest dialog and education are needed on both sides.
King pointed to Hull, Mass., as a possible case study for turbines located on public lands. Town officials and residents there have embraced wind power, he said, successfully building a 164-foot turbine next to a high school and a 242-foot turbine on the campus of the Massachusetts Maritime Academy.
The town of Hull has since receive several awards for it’s implementation of alternative energy and is exploring four offshore turbines that would power the entire community of about 11,000 residents.