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One more chance for turbine talk

BARKHAMSTED — The town’s Planning and Zoning Commission will provide local residents one more opportunity to voice their opinion on the wind turbine proposed for the Region 7 School District grounds.

The commission has continued the public hearing on the project’s application to Dec. 10. Planners first opened the hearing at their Nov. 13 regular meeting.

The commission is expected to close the public hearing at the Dec. 10 meeting and then make a final decision on the project’s application.

For the project to move forward, the commission must grant a special exception zoning permit.

The district’s middle/high school campus, which serves students in the towns of Barkhamsted, Colebrook, New Hartford and Norfolk, has been selected by the Torrington-based green energy company Optiwind as a test site for one of its new wind turbines.

Optiwind has proposed placing the tower just over a section of fence that runs along the campus’ northeastern perimeter in Barkhamsted. The tower would hold 12 fans, each 21 feet wide, that would produce an average of 300 kilowatts of power an hour.

If approved, the turbine would join alternative energy forces with the thousands of solar panels that will soon produce electricity on the district building’s roof.

Optiwind would build, maintain and operate the 199-foot turbine at no cost to the district.

In exchange for allowing the company to build and test its new design at the site, the schools would be given the opportunity to purchase the electricity created by the turbine at a reduced cost.

School officials have estimated that the district, which spent $400,000 last fiscal year to keep the electricity flowing through its 250,000-square-foot campus,would save hundreds of thousands of dollars in fuel costs over the life of the system.

In addition to reducing utility costs, district officials said the turbine would provide educational opportunities for students at a variety of grade levels, while also setting a positive green energy example within the larger community.

Optiwind representatives made an informal presentation to the town’s Planning and Zoning Commission in May.

The district’s Board of Education must also give its final approval before construction can begin on the tower.

School board members unanimously approved a letter of intent regarding the project earlier this year.

Although a portion of the tower would be located on a privately owned parcel of land, district officials have said the landowner is willing to grant an easement on his property for this project.

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