Urban and Suburban Wind Turbines

This video (editor’s note: the video is no longer available) was sent to me by a reader of the Newburyport Blog. It is one of the latest (and looks like one of the most effective) new vertical wind turbines (as opposed to the horizontal propeller wind turbines) for urban, suburban and populated areas. Very cool. Jay Leno makes the presentation (a little star power here).

The wind turbine is made by a company called Enviro Energies. I am especially fascinated by “Ed Begley and Jim Rowan talking turbine” on their website.

Ed Begley who at one point I saw all over TV talking about alternative energy has this to say:

“Enviro Energies has re-awakened my excitement of utilizing urban wind power.”

I don’t see why a product like this on could not be installed at industries in Newburyport’s Industrial Park instead of huge industrial size wind turbines. They would both be effective and neighborhood friendly.

Plus, something that I was not aware of–there is a now a federal tax credit for “small wind turbines”:

“Today (October 3, 2008) Congress passed legislation, the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, H.R. 1424, that includes a new federal-level investment tax credit to help consumers purchase small wind turbines for home, farm, or business use. A few hours ago, President Bush signed the bill into law. Owners of small wind systems with 100 kilowatts (kW) of capacity and less can receive a credit for 30% of the total installed cost of the system, not to exceed $4,000. The credit will be available for equipment installed from today through December 31, 2016.”

You can read about the tax credit for small wind turbines here.

Significant or Insignificant Shadow Flicker

The power and nuance of words.

My objective would be to have a Newburyport wind ordinance that effectively uses wind energy and also protects local quality of life (to paraphrase or steal from Newburyport City Councilor Ed Cameron).

From talking to and emails from people, one of the central themes of this “work through” on various local Massachusetts wind turbine ordinances, appears to be the word “significant” in the phrase “that does not result in significant shadowing or flicker impacts” (Newbury’s draft wind turbine bylaw amendment), and on Newburyport’s current wind turbine ordinance on the Shadow/Flicker–XXVI-G 3.e..”the effect does not have significant adverse impact..”

It appears that the conflict or disagreement from different people’s point of view–the word “significant.” What appears “significant” to some would appear to be “insignificant” to others.

Folks who email me, rightly worried about Global Warming, and see wind energy as a win-win scenario, often feel that shadow flickers from large wind turbines would be insignificant.

My very cursory “whisk through” in understanding where these folks would be coming from, leads me to believe that there could be a disconnect between a larger wind energy agenda, and how things are accomplished on a local political level.

Which is why, I believe the Newburyport City Council is taking very seriously the concerns of neighbors of Newburyport’s wind turbine who do find the shadow, flicker significant in their lives. I think that they understand from a “getting things done” point of view, that “all politics is local.” That translating a larger wind energy policy into local lives, is difficult and takes an empathetic and nuanced approach, if we as a country are going to have an effective alternative energy policy.

Wind Turbine Shadow Flicker

When I wake up in the morning in Newburyport, MA and it’s sunny, it makes me smile.

I can’t (or maybe I could) imagine what it would be like to wake up on a regular sunny morning in Newburyport, MA and be in despair, and wish instead that it were cloudy.

And what I heard at last Tuesday’s meeting on the Newburyport wind turbine ordinance, was that on sunny days, Newburyport’s wind turbine can cast a shadow, or when moving a “shadow flicker,” on some of the neighboring homes. And on sunny days, instead of feeling cheered up, the residents who experience the shadow flicker, feel despair.

I cannot imagine sitting in my yard and A) have a large looming propeller like thing and then B) have that large looming propeller cast a moving shadow across my property, much less inside my home. I would be in despair too.

One of the things that was taken seriously into consideration at Newburyport’s wind turbine ordinance public hearing, was the subject of setbacks for future wind turbines, which would hopefully prevent this occurrence from happening in the future.

One of the questions at the end of the meeting, was what would happen if someone in Newburyport’s industrial park (which is zoned for wind turbines) wanted to erect one before changes to the wind turbine ordinance were made. And I was very glad to see the President of the Newburyport City Council, James Shanley, stand up and say (and I’m paraphrasing here) that if that were to happen, the city would take a very different approach than it had the first time.

Wind Turbine Meeting

I haven’t been to a Newburyport civic meeting in a while, and I went to the public meeting on the Wind Turbine Ordinance on Tuesday night.

I enjoyed seeing all the members of the Newburyport City Council there. I appreciate all the time and effort that they put into running our city, whether I agree with them on particular issues or not.

What struck me at the wind turbine meeting at Newburyport City Hall was the remarks by the residents of Newburyport, MA that are effected by the huge 292 foot wind turbine that is now up in Newburyport’s Industrial Park.

Yes, there was anger, but there was also despair. Probably the most heart wrenching comment for me, came from a woman (and this is a paraphrase) who said that she grew up in Newburyport, that her family home was taken by eminent domain, and that she feels because of the very intrusive effects of the wind turbine, that her home had been taken by eminent domain once again.

And a friend of mine who is not effected directly by the wind turbine said that they went to one of the homes to see what all the fuss was about, and that they could not believe how intrusive the effect of the large wind turbine actually was.

And yes, there were folks who talked about how glad they were that we as a city are combating global warming and now have a wind turbine on our city soil.

It appears to me that over the many years that I have been to meetings like this one, that City Councilors sometimes do an eye-roll thing. However, at the end of this meeting on the wind turbine ordinance, I was struck by how clearly the President of the Newburyport City Council, James Shanley appeared to empathize with the citizens who spoke. And I was also so glad to hear the chair of the Newburyport City Council Planning Committee, Ed Cameron, say that somehow we as a city need to not only take into consideration combating global warming, but also local quality of life.

Wind Turbine Newburyport

Who knew last spring when Newburyport’s wind energy, turbine ordinance was written, that Barack Obama would become president of the United States or that we as a country would have a mandate from our new president to make wind energy work.

Wind-wise we are light years ahead of where we were just a year ago. Who knows where wind energy will be a year from now.

I read somewhere that the innovations of wind energy will be similar to the innovation of the PC in the 1990’s. I have no idea if this would be true, but it makes sense to me.

And although I realize that from a wind energy point of view, bigger has been better, it appears, however, that that mindset might be beginning to change.

I think we as a city (see myriad of previous posts) have an opportunity to think about our wind-energy ordinance–policy from a different point of view. And there would be no better time to do that than at the Public Meeting concerning Newburyport’s Wind Energy Ordinance, this Tuesday, March 31, 2009 at 7PM at Newburyport City Hall Auditorium.

Wind Energy and Governing

Although it is laudable that we in Newburyport, MA have an individual–company that is on the cutting edge of clean energy, it is also up to our Newburyport governing bodies not to be advocates for any one agenda, but to understand the pulse of the entire city of Newburyport, MA and to govern accordingly, which almost always, when successful, means balance and compromise.

So my thoughts are that when Mr. Richey may have approached whoever about the large wind turbine now on his property in Newburyport’s Industrial Park, that it might have been prudent for our elected Newburyport officials to say something to the effect, “We are thrilled to have someone as committed to clean and green energy as you are, however, our constituency might not be ready for such a radical move (i.e. a 292 foot wind turbine near a residential area); why not start out “low and go slow,” with wind turbines that may not pack as close to a high voltage punch, but are more in balance with a residential community.”

The buck stops with the Newburyport City Council.

And in looking back at the Newburyport Blog, in November of 2007, I expressed a concern about “fastening our seat belts,” because things were really going to move with this particular Newburyport City Council in place.

And concerning wind energy, things have really zoomed, and as a result, things may really backfired. One giant step forward, and possibly many giant steps backwards.

One of my favorite sayings is, “Baby steps get you to the top of the mountain.”

And as far as wind energy goes, there are several “baby steps” that could be taken. There are a number of wind energy products that are now being fast tracked, in response to the same conflict that we in Newburyport, MA are experiencing.

Quietrevolution hopes to have its vertical wind turbine product in 4 different sizes by late 2009 and 2010. The product was featured on MNBC here.

Windspire is a 30 foot by 2 foot vertical wind turbine featured at the Inauguration that has now been fast-tracked. The company was able to retrofit a former auto parts factory in Michigan and high volume production is planned for April 2009.

These are just two examples of wind turbine products, that yes, are not anywhere close to being as high voltage as the example that we currently have, but do wrestle with the issues that concern Newburyport citizens.

I would urge our Newburyport City Council to rethink a long term Newburyport wind energy policy, and not be wedded to an “either-or” approach, but in future, to urge citizens and business to take a more tempered and balanced direction.

Newburyport Wind Backlash

I know what it is like to work on a Newburyport civic project, to be completely committed to a Newburyport civic project for years, and then have an incredible Newburyport public backlash. It’s not fun.

So I understand how our elected and civic Newburyport officials might feel, working on the Wind Energy Conversion Ordinance that made the current 292 foot wind turbine in Newburyport’s Industrial Park possible, and how the backlash (which is significant) could also make them feel.

My first reaction to a very vocal Newburyport public backlash was that people just didn’t understand, that this was a solution to a very complex problem and that people would come around.

Not only did most people not come around, but the project was derailed, lost funding, may be put off for decades, that civic employment was lost, and a significant amount of distrust from the public still lingers on.

And the sense that I get from folks who have worked hard on the Newburyport Wind Energy Ordinance that made the 292 foot Newburyport wind turbine possible, is that they might feel, in someway, the way I felt–i.e. very much committed and wedded to the concept.

Please, if possible, learn from my experience. It’s really hard to let go of something that has so much passion and reason behind it. But if another huge wind turbine would be put up in Newburyport’s Industrial Park, my guess is that the pitchforks might come out with even more force. My sense is that the Newburyport Wind Energy Ordinance has the potential of causing an even greater fissure within the city of Newburyport, MA if another industrial size wind turbine would be erected.

And the very, very good news is that we have a mandate from the President of the Untied States to make wind energy work. That communities all over the globe are experiencing the same conflict that Newburyport, MA is–an ambivalence about having an industrial size wind turbine near a populated area. All kinds of incredibly innovative ideas are in the works and being funded to make wind energy that is more effective and more in scale with the cities and towns in which we live.

So I would urge the Newburyport City Council to be open to rethinking the Wind Energy Ordinance that will be discussed in a public meeting this Tuesday, March 31 at 7PM at City Hall Auditorium.

Making sure that we as a city have the trust of the citizens of Newburyport, MA could be essential in making sure Newburyport, MA has long term, vibrant and viable wind energy projects.

Small Wind

I am now intensely curious about the possibilities of wind turbines in populated areas, Newburyport and elsewhere. And with a small amount of Googling I come up with a website that claims to have all the world’s small wind turbines. At the moment the website lists 283 small wind turbines, from 118 manufacturers. Not only are there horizontal wind turbines (243), but there are also vertical (40) wind turbines. All of this fascinates me.

My favorite (and I have no idea how good it is) is the Helix Wind vertical wind turbine.

There’s even wind turbines that are lighting up a Times Square billboard.

It sounds like this is becoming a fairly competitive industry, and that wind turbines that are Newburyport balanced friendly (see earlier entries) are a pretty good possibility.

And, I guess not surprisingly, what I read on many of the websites, are that the residential wind turbines are being developed because there has been “resistance” in populated communities, such as Newburyport, MA to huge 300 foot wind turbines.

So there is an alternative or a soon to be alternative out there, which makes me happy. The idea of Newburyport historic preservationists pitted against Newburyport environmentalists seems counterproductive, and it looks like there could be a possibility of having a long term a win-win situation.

Residential Wind Turbines

In thinking about wind turbines and scale and balance for our historic Newburyport, MA city, it seemed to me that we would not be the only place feeling somewhat conflicted about having huge wind turbines in residential areas (vast understatement).

And we now have a president who A) believes in science and B) thinks clean-green energy is a good thing, and is rigorously promoting wind energy. So why wouldn’t President Obama’s administration want to address the issue of smaller wind turbines for populated areas. Great entrepreneurial potential, huge market, lots of jobs.

And in a brief Google of small residential wind turbines, there are lots of folks beginning to wrestle with a solution.

We’ve had antennas on historic Newburyport roofs for many, many years. It would not be so far fetched to imagine effective wind turbines on a residential scale in years (who knows, months?) to come. So down the line there maybe a compromise between huge 300 foot wind turbines and something more manageable wind-wise for a Newburyport historic place.

An Obama-time, Obama-moment, full of Obama type possibilities.

Historic Stewardship and Clean Energy

Actually the quote from President Obama is about clean, green energy.. “…we have to balance economic growth with good stewardship of the land God gave us.”

(Courier-Journal.com, “Obama chides Republicans, President says party needs to offer ideas,” by James R. Carroll, March 24, 2009.)

I’m still wondering about the idea of how to balance clean, green energy (huge, out of scale wind-turbines) with a residential community, much less an historic, beautiful one.

Yup, there were large smokestacks spewing horrible stuff into the air in Newburyport, MA earlier in the 20th century, and the wind from wind turbines is clean and green. But because we (at least a lot of us) are mighty excited about clean, green energy, does that mean that it might not be a good idea to give some serious thought to balancing economic growth and clean energy growth with the stewardship of the historic land, Newburyport, MA in which we live?

And again, I come back to scale. I think the existing wind turbine could give us the opportunity to have that kind of dialogue. And I don’t know the answer.

I do, however, think that David Hall struck a balance between clean and green energy and our residential and historic Newburyport, New England city. The solar panels on the restored Tannery are not at odds with the historic nature of our Newburyport historic district.

We are a city that fought two large towers that would have spanned the Merrimac River, because, among other things, they were completely out of scale with the environment in which they would have existed (on either side, both rural and residential). The alternative was to put the wires underneath the river.

For a residential and historic area, an emphasis on solar energy for long term clean and green might be more appropriate than more out of scale wind turbines– the Industrial Park which they are zoned for, is mighty close to the residential areas of Newburyport, MA. Not exactly a new conflict.

Such are my politically incorrect thoughts.

Ghost Town

It felt like a ghost town to me in Newburyport, MA over the 4th of July weekend. (And this is from a blogger who was “remarking” that it was “tourist season.” Does she stand corrected? Good grief.)

I asked someone else if they thought that could be true, and they said that they thought that it felt like that all over.


I went downtown on the 4th of July in the afternoon. I went into one of the shops to say, “Hello,” and the shopkeeper came outside, because no one was in the shop at all, to look around town to see if other people might be having the same experience as they were.

After barely waiting for an ice cream cone, I had a choice of 3 empty benches in the shade on Market Square, in the middle of the afternoon. I told my friend this, and the reply was, “3 benches? Empty? That never happens.”

And usually, if I would be coming from the South End of Newburyport, MA, on a holiday weekend, traffic would be backed up on High Street by the State and High Street light, and it usually could take 3 lights to get through.

Not this weekend for moi. No problemo.

My friend speculated that it could be the price of gasoline, and prices in general. Homemade picnics rather than eating out. Last years clothes, rather than a happy summer spending spree. People staying put, rather than riding around and using gasoline.

I have been acclimated to the “tourist crunch.” In fact complaining about tourists is often seen as a secret, or not so secret Newburyport past time, or guilty pleasure.

I’m not use to all that “quiet” in Newburyport, MA on a major holiday weekend. Wow.

David Hall, Solar Power, Newburyport, Massachusetts

Dear Persons Interested in Solar Powered Electricity,

I am excited to announce we are closer to getting solar power to numerous residential homes around the Newburyport area. There will be two types of systems: a 1kW and a .5kW, both ground mounted. We have been in contact with Solar Market of Arundel, Maine, which is the same company that put the solar panels on The Tannery. The 480 watt (~.5 kW) and the 960 watt (~1 kW) will account for approximately 770 kWh and 1540 kWh respectively of your annual electric bill. This is about 10% of the average American’s annual electric bill.

Our goal is for you to get the most for your money in order to maximize your satisfaction with solar power. So the numbers end up being a total of approximately $4,500 for the 480 watt module and $9,050 for the 960 watt module. These are not including any rebates or incentives. To give you an approximate picture of the rebates and incentives here is what we believe will apply to each module:


480 watt 960 watt
Initial Cost**
$4,500 $9,050
State tax credit of 15% rebate up to $1000
$712 $1000
Federal tax credit of 30% rebate up to $2000
$1,422 $2,000
MTC rebate
$960 $1920

Estimated cost
$1,406 $4,130
There would also be these annual savings:

Renewable Energy Certificate Rebate***
$40 $80

Savings on electricity bill***
$110 $220

Annual savings
$150 $300
** These prices do not include installation and shipping, we do not know those prices at this time.
*** These savings may vary due to varying electricity prices.

We will be holding a meeting on Friday June 23rd at 5:15pm at the offices of Hall and Moskow (Mill#5, The Tannery– under Doherty’s meat market) to execute contracts, fill out applications for rebates, and making an initial payment of 33% of the system cost ($1485 for 480 and $2986.50 for the 960). Checks are to be made out to Solar Market or a credit card can be processed for a fee if preferred. There will be a full refund of the deposit if the application is rejected by MTC. System buyers are ineligible for MTC rebates if the systems are purchased or installed before the application for the rebate is approved, hence the urgency of getting all this paperwork out of the way. Please let us know if you can or cannot attend. Thanks!

David Hall and Rachael Nealer

RSVP to rnealer@student.umass.edu

(Editor’s note: This blog software does not do justice to the chart that was submitted. For a better chart on “Initial Cost,” “Estimated cost” and “Annual Savings” please contact Rachael Nealer at the above email address.)

Newburyport Massachusetts, Energy Independence

Here are three ideas I’d like to raise about energy independence for Newburyport.

Let me start with having all heads nod their assent to the proposition that energy supply is now dangerously tied to geopolitical forces of immense scale. Ticking down the list of hot spots and problems from Korean, Nigeria, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, and the newly insatiable Chinese and India demand for oil…can make you break into a cold sweat.

So the idea that we need to work towards more local and regional independence seems to be just plain common sense.

Here are a few ways Newburyport could begin to solve the problem:

1) All vehicles used by the city, including school buses, police cars and public works trucks should be converted on a four or five year schedule to either hybrids, fuel flexible vehicles like ethanol/ diesel mixes, etc. The goal would be to “average down” our city fuel costs by, say 15%.

2) We should consider floating “Energy Independence Bonds” to be used to put in place an appropriate mix of alternative energy systems for all municipal and school buildings. Starting with the schools with electric heat, we should invest in whatever array of building scale energy production and savings technology our smartest minds can develop.

3) We should begin to hold hearings to add to our zoning and development laws the idea that ‘green building’ will be encouraged. We might even include a first year property tax ‘discount’ for people installing new energy saving ideas. Allowing building orientation to maximize solar gain, allowing minor building height adjustment for any roof top energy systems.

There are people in the city who are working on various ideas to move us towards energy independence. Two people I’m aware of are Mark Guay and Molly Ettenborough. There are committees being formed, maybe you can join one.

We can do this…we just have to get the ball rolling.

Ron Martino, Newburport