Fairfield to study savings from wind turbine

The Board of Selectmen devoted energy Tuesday on ways to save on the town's power bills.

The board approved spending $50,000 in grants for a feasibility study of installing a wind turbine on town property and accepted a $22,500 grant for a generator at police headquarters.

"I think it's a really interesting, exciting possibility," First Selectman Ken Flatto said of the wind turbine.

Public Works Director Rich White said he knows of no municipality in the state that has one.

The feasibility study, expected to take nearly a year, will address three areas: ensuring there are no federal, state or local barriers, environmentally or otherwise, to the turbine's site; taking wind velocities at different elevations to determine the size and the wind energy that will be generated; and a cost-benefit analysis.

White said the turbine is planned for the town landfill property off One Rod Highway, "near the water, right next to where we have the most demand for electricity."

He said it will would serve "the fire training center, the (sewage) treatment plant, the conservation building, animal control and the public works garage."

If the town ends up purchasing a 500-kilowatt, wind-powered electric generator, the approximate cost would be $2 million. Annual savings from such a turbine is pegged at $350,000 a year.

White said he expects to receive grant funding to cover half the $2 million price tag. "It's less than a three-year payback," he said.

While no other area municipalities have installed their own wind turbines, White said the town of Hull, Mass., powers most of its buildings with such equipment. A few months ago, a wind turbine popped up within view of commuters traveling south across Interstate 95's Pearl Harbor Memorial Bridge in New Haven (more commonly known as the Q Bridge). However, that 100-kilowatt turbine was erected by a private business, Phoenix Press, on James Street. It stands 156 feet tall and provides approximately one-third of the business' electrical needs.

Police Generator

The generator for police headquarters that the selectmen approved grant money will cost about $420,000, but in the long run, the town expects to save about $50,000 a year in energy costs. It will provide energy and cost savings four ways, while also reducing carbon-dioxide and particulate-matter emissions: electricity from the generator; heat from the waste heat; electricity from the absorption chiller; and electricity for hot water.

Recently appointed Selectman Jim Walsh -- who joined the board as a replacement for the late Ralph Bowley -- wondered if similar grant funding from United Illuminating could be secured for other town buildings. Public Works Director Rich White said that is possible, and later said the main Fairfield Public Library building at Old Post and Post roads could be the next candidate for a generator.

The police generator is also being paid for with $400,000 from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act's Energy Block Grant.