Madaket Wind Turbine Project


Nantucket Energy Office
12 Federal Street
Nantucket,MA 02554

(508) 325-5379

The Town has had a long-standing interest in wind-powered electric generation at the Madaket site. In fact, numerous feasibility studies have been performed on wind projects at the Madaket site since the mid-1990s. As this website indicates, the Town has done extensive studies of feasibility, wind resources, costs, benefits and potential impacts.  Among the recent events that make this a particularly opportune time for the Town to pursue development of the wind project are the following:

  • The key studies to determine feasibility of the project are complete. The prior studies show that the project is technically feasible. The remaining efforts involve the detailed aspects of project development rather than issues of feasibility.

  • Similarly, the Town’s need for space for landfill-related activities are now clear as the result of the agreements related to the landfill mining and reclamation program at the site that were negotiated in 2009 and 2010. Thus, the Town can move ahead with final selection of sites for the wind project with full knowledge of the needs of the site for solid waste-related purposes.

  • Prices of wind turbines have fallen dramatically, and availability has improved markedly, in part due to conditions in the wind turbine market as a result of the economic downturn. This is a good time for the Town to get good value in purchasing a wind turbine before the economy recovers.

  • The Town received a grant of $345,400 from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to reimburse costs of wind project development, design and construction. The funding, however, comes with deadlines that limit its availability unless certain project deadlines are met in 2011 and 2012.

From the start, the Town has been committed to a public process, with public forums, transparent economics, and an open decision-making process on the numbers and sizes of turbine. The Town even agreed to down-size the turbine during the completion of the HDC process, despite the economies of scale of a larger project. A private developer would likely have taken a different approach to the development process: certainly, the economics and decision-making processes would not have been transparent, and there likely would have been more pushback against down-sizing the turbine to reduce potential impacts.

We also understand based on the experience of our expert consulants that: There are very few developers, if any, that would ever even consider developing a project that consists of a single 900-kW wind turbine. Such a project is just too small to attract the attention of the private wind development firms, who are developing wind farms, not individual turbine projects. Also, projects under $10 million in capital cost typically have trouble finding private financing, because such projects are typically below minimum thresholds for financing for many investors. That's precisely why the Mass Clean Energy Center embarked on its Community Wind program -- to encourage towns to sponsor, develop and own/operate turbines that are in good locations and might reduce municipal electricity costs, but are too small to attract the interest of private developer.
Why a Town-owned project?
Our energy reserves are finite. And as an island, we must use our resources as efficiently and wisely as possible. Presently, we are dependent on two under-sea cables to deliver our electricity from the mainland, from sources such as coal and nuclear power plants. We directly pay for these two cables through the surcharges included in our monthly electric bills. Because we have to import our fuel and electricity, Nantucket has some of the highest rates in the country. Last year the Town of Nantucket spent $1.8 million for electricity alone at it facilities. 

If our overall energy usage keeps growing, we face the eventual prospect of a needing a 3rd submarine cable, and another extra surcharge on our monthly electric bills to pay for it (estimated to be $80Million). We believe it is critical at this point in time to engage and inspire local residents to come together to derail Nantucket’s current, unsustainable energy path, and ensure a more secure, energy-independent future. We are proud to say that renewable energy projects are in the works at the towns four largest electricity consuming facilities: the Surfside Wastewater Treatment Plant, Compost Digester, Nantucket HIgh School and Nantucket Memorial Airport.
Why renewable energy?
Why Wind?
Wind on Nantucket is our only natural plentiful and abundant resource, which makes a wind energy conversion system the natural choice for generating alternative energy. The Madaket wind turbine would reap the wind speeds of an offshore project, but the wind “regime” and maintenance convenience of an onshore project (the surrounding Madaket land shields the turbine from extreme gusts). We have the unique opportunity to site a high-efficiency turbine in a high wind-speed location. While our wind resource is considered “exceptional” by industry standards, our photovoltaic solar resource level is categorized as “good.” 

More questions and answers coming soon! 
Please submit questions to:
The single 900kW turbine is estimated to pay the Electric Bills at the Compost Digester, Our Island Home, the Town Hall, Fire Department, 4 Fairgrounds and 2 Fairgrounds. The savings on energy costs can be allocated towards other taxpayer needs and projects. After paying the total operating expenses and debt service the average annual benefit exceeds $400,000. In addition, the turbine will defer the necessity for a third electric from the mainland.

What will the economic benefits be to the Town?
How tall will the turbine be?
The tower structure is 232 feet tall and is gracefully tapered from 4.23 meters to 1.85 meters. It will be painted an unobtrusive light gray. The maximum height is 324 feet when a blade is at 12 o’clock.

Why not a few smaller turbines instead of one "mid-sized" turbine?
Basically, it would take 4 Bartlett Farm turbines and 9 High School turbines (in actuality, 16 when you take into consideration the wind capacity at a increased height) to equal the power of one 900kw turbine. To install anything smaller would not be economically viable for the Town. Please know we put considerable research into the feasibility of the model specs, and have scaled back our current proposed model from the originally proposed 1.5MW turbine that would have been significantly taller. 
*Nantucket is endowed with among the nation’s best wind resources, based on real, long-term recorded data.  

*Wind power is characterized by a simple 1 thru 7 wind class system that rates wind potential. The average wind speed on Nantucket registers as a class 6: “outstanding” resource. In comparison, the wind speed in Hull, MA is a class 3: “fair” resource.

*Our residents and your Town are burdened with electric rates that are among the highest in the nation.

*The Town itself pays over $1.8 million per year for its electricity.

*The Town proposal is not for a wind farm, but rather a single turbine at a single location. That’s it. 

*The turbine, to be located at the southern boundary of the DPW Compound, will offset the electricity costs of the composter and six other of the Town’s largest consuming facilities, including: the Material Recovery Facility (MRF), Fire Department, the Public Safety Facility (police station), 2 Fairgrounds Rd, Town Hall and Our Island Home.

*Our business model is premised on extremely conservative economic assumptions, not a “likely case” scenario.

*Our studies were performed by highly reputable consultants and engineering teams, not industry lobbyists. Their findings, based on real data, document their conclusion, that the project has minimal to no risk of harmful noise, flicker or avian kills.

*Over the course of 20-years, the Madaket Turbine is estimated to offset 86,958,376 lbs of Carbon Dioxide, 93,352 lbs of Sulfur Dioxide, and 194,853 lbs of Nitrogen Oxide.

*There is only one home within 2,300 feet of the proposed site in Madaket; in comparison there are 59 homes within 2,300 feet of the larger 1.69MW Turbine in Falmouth (which is over 50 feet taller in height).

*Nantucket Citizens at last year’s Annual Town Meeting supported this project (which has been under development since 2008) by a landslide vote.
The MassCEC has provided the Town of Nantucket with a spreadsheet listing all of the wind projects that are currently installed in MA, as well as all wind projects that the MassCEC is aware of that are in the development or construction phases. 
(Access spreadsheet: here)

According to this data: 46 wind turbines are in operation, 35 wind turbines are in the construction phase, and 148 wind turbines are in the development phase. The MassCEC clarifies: "not all proposed projects do move forward to construction. There are multiple stages of analyzing a potential project and site assessments and feasibility studies are done to provide developers and communities with the appropriate site-specific information that they need in order to determine whether or not to move forward with a project. There are a variety of reasons why projects may not move forward, but since each site is different it is important to review the studies and analyses done for that specific site and to review projects on a case by case basis."

One of the best examples of a town that has taken advantage of wind energy is Hull, Massachusetts. They erected a 600KW wind turbine about 5 years ago at their high school. It has worked out so well that they put up second (1.8 MW) wind turbine. There is nearly 100% support for the wind projects in Hull. See the Hull Wind Page. It is pertinent to note that Nantucket has significantly greater wind resources than Hull. 
Why does the Town have a sudden interest in a wind turbine at the Madaket site? Isn’t more time needed to study feasibility and impacts?
Nantucket Energy Office
Mooney Building; 3rd Floor
22 Federal Street
Nantucket,MA 02554

(508) 325-5379
No, not by the Town. Multiple studies performed for the Town over the past few years have confirmed that the Madaket Landfill site is the only Town-owned land suitable for a utility-scale or mid-size wind turbine generator. In addition, consultations with both the US Fish and Wildlife Service and the Mass Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program have indicated that installation of a utility-scale or mid-size turbine anywhere on Nantucket other than at the Madaket Landfill site would trigger significant additional review of potential impacts on natural resources and species that, by itself, could make such a project infeasible.

Would the construction of one or more turbines be considered anywhere other than the landfill?
Wind turbines are capital-intensive projects with low operating costs. Once the wind turbine is installed and the capital costs have been incurred, the Town will be better off economically keeping the turbine in place, even if savings are below projections, than incurring costs for removal. The intention is to keep the wind turbine in place for its lifetime of service, which is expected to be at least 25 years, and might be significantly longer. 

ZBA guideline for WECS that mandates that the wind turbine would be removed if it ceases to operate and cannot be repaired feasibly, or if operation results in unacceptable impacts that cannot be mitigated. The Town is undertaking substantial efforts in the design, procurement and permitting phase to anticipate potential design and operational issues in order to avoid operational issues and impacts.

If the wind turbine does not meet its production/savings projections or objectives, will the tower be removed at no cost to the taxpayers?
No. The turbine will not be on top of the compost "hill" at the Landfill--Waste Options will actually be removing the compost pile so that the turbine will be at a reduced elevation (10' above sea level).

Will the turbine be placed on top of the compost pile?
Are there other examples of towns in Massachusetts who have gone through this process?

This misconception comes from an old problem with some birds being injured by wind turbines. About 15-20 years ago there were actual problems with birds being injured in the high speed wind turbines erected in wind farms (such as Altamont Pass in California). Unfortunately this has carried over to a myth of the same thing happening with modern wind turbines. The fact is that modern technology wind turbines turn at much slower rate than those old technology high speed ones, which are no longer in use. Modern wind turbines have gearing that reduces the rotation of the blades to a very low speed (less that 30 RPM). 

We contracted with Normandeau Associates to conduct an extensive Avian Study (The Madaket Wind Project: Summary of Wildlife-Related Regulatory Requirements and Potential Impacts), which concluded:

Impacts as a result of the proposed project are likely low to very low for the majority of the species of interest. Species with a moderate potential for impacts include Long Tailed Ducks, northern harriers, and bats. To track any turbine-strike impacts to all groups, both agencies have also requested that post-construction mortality surveys be conducted. If mortality impacts to any of these groups are detected, they can likely be reduced to acceptable levels through a schedule of operational curtailments tailored to match the high- risk period of the target species, as laid out in the suggested AMP (Section 9)."

Of the approximately 500 million to 1 billion birds killed annually in the US from all human-influenced causes, an estimated 0.003% are killed by wind turbines, compared to 82% by cats and collisions with buildings and power lines, 8% by vehicles, and 7% by pesticides.

We have heard that wind turbines are a hazard to birds. Is this true?
How will property values be affected?
 The debate about the impacts of wind energy on market property values tends to be based on the assumption that wind energy will negatively impact the character of an area as well as introduce a nuisance condition. Some studies discuss predicted impacts while others discuss predicted impacts while others discuss actual impacts; some relay on statistical evidence across broad samples while others refer to specific, one-off examples. Ultimately there appears to be no conclusive evidence of widespread impacts, either positive or negative. The Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) conducted one of the more comprehensive statistical studies on property value impacts (LBNL 2009). The authors found no statistically significant evidence of negative impacts on property values. Essentially, based on the review of a relatively large number of examples, there was no consistent evidence of a loss of value.
Has the Town considered gasification at the Solid Waste Facility instead of the wind turbine?
Waste gasification is an emerging technology that has not been commercially proven as feasible in the United States. Although the concept is attractive, there are no vendors offering commercial systems with a successful track record of gasifying waste plastics and C&D waste. Moreover, Nantucket's remote location and small amount of available waste pose severe challenges to facilities that would typically be developed on a regional basis and at a large scale. Furthermore, since 1990, the Massachusetts DEP has kept a moratorium on the permitting of new municipal waste combustion facilities, which extends to and bans facilities that might combust gasified waste.

No waste gasification facility could be permitted or constructed on Nantucket until that 20-year policy, which has broad political support state-wide among environmental groups, is reversed. The Nantucket Energy Office understands that the Town's landfill operator, Waste Options, is actively investigating gasification technologies that might be implemented on Nantucket. The Nantucket Energy Office supports those efforts and hopes they are successful. If Waste Options identifies a suitable technology and offers an appropriate proposal for its development, the Nantucket Energy Office would support a Town effort to review and consider that proposal carefully. In the interim, however, we believe that its priorities should remain in the areas of methods to encourage energy efficiency and projects to utilize sustainable energy technologies that are commercially proven as feasible.
What is the role of reMain Nantucket in the Madaket Wind Project?
While reMain Nantucket was very active with the project to install a wind turbine at Nantucket High School, the organization has not been specifically involved in the Madaket Wind Project.  

In 2011, reMain Nantucket provided funding to the Town of Nantucket to found the Nantucket Energy Office (,with the goals of: expanding communication with the public on a range of energy-related subjects, and getting the technical assistance needed to make smart choices with respect to energy efficiency and renewables projects.

reMain Nantucket encourages residents to continue through the public review process of the Madaket Wind Project and to bring concerns to the Town's attention.
I'm concerned about aesthetics, what do I need to know?
A wind turbine is a large piece of equipment with rotating blades that can be a new and unique addition to a given landscape. Opinions about the appearance of wind turbines are broad and varied. While some may view wind turbines as aesthetically pleasing signs of progress, others may see them as an unattractive intrusion on the landscape. The aesthetics of a project may weigh into a community’s decision-making process along with consideration of other benefits and impacts. Massachusetts currently has over 40 operating wind turbines located throughout the state. In 2011, the Town of Nantucket contracted for photosimulations of what a Powerwind56 would look like at the Madaket Landfill, even producing custom simulations for specific Madaket Residents (see photosims) 

Recently, on February-17-2012, a group of Nantucket residents traveled to Charlemont, MA for a site visit of the PowerWind 56 at Berkshire East Ski Resort. This trip proved valuable to better understanding how a wind turbine would fit in with the community. Please view video clips here. 
Will it be unsafe to go to the landfill to dispose of waste and recycling?
For any large structure or piece of equipment being installed, it is necessary to consider safety. Wind turbines are generally very safe machines, and structural failures are very rare. Turbines are certified to international safety standards, designed and installed to the specifications of professional engineers, and subject to building codes. In New England, ice throw is sometimes raised as a safety concern. Under very specific conditions, icing can sometimes occur on wind turbine blades; however, there are simple and commonly available mitigation measures to eliminate ice throw such as ice sensors that will keep the turbine from operating when ice has accumulated on the blades. When icing has shut down a turbine, restricting access to the area under the turbine is recommended until the blades have shed any accumulated ice.

With respect to impacts on the safe use of airspace, all wind turbines the size of that proposed for Madaket must be reviewed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). In 2009, the FAA issued a Determination of No Hazard for the proposed wind project, which has since been renewed.
Every electron generated by the wind turbine would stay on Nantucket. Under current conditions, the undersea cable is set up to deliver electricity one way only: from the mainland to Nantucket. No electrons go from the island to the shore, nor could they without overcoming the voltage drop, tripping protective relays and risking an Island-wide black-out.

Indeed, per the National Grid Interconnection Screening Study dated March 5, 2012, all of the electrons would serve loads on the National Grid circuit, which is the line that goes to Eel Point, then doubles back through Madaket to the landfill site.  

Assuming the turbine is allowed into the net metering program, the Town would  tell National Grid how to split up the net metering credits amongst its meters. The Town Energy Office recommends that the net metering credits be split up as follows: 48% to the Composter, 18% to 4FG, 10% to Our Island Home, 7% to Town Hall, 7% to 2FG, 6% to the recycling facility; 2% to the DPW Compound and 2% to the Fire Department. Those Departments could then reduce the amounts in their budgets for electricity accordingly.  
Will the power generated by the proposed Madaket turbine be used locally?  How will the net-metering credits be applied towards municipal meters? 
NOTE: The Madaket Wind Turbine Project (Article 13) was defeated in the 2012 Annual Town Meeting on March 31. 2012. This website is retained for archival and reference purposes.