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Optiwind project moves forward

BARKHAMSTED — The proposed wind turbine project for the Region 7 School District campus on Battistoni Drive has cleared another important hurdle.

The Barkhamsted Planning & Zoning Commission unanimously approved a special exception zoning permit at its regular meeting Dec. 10, after closing the required public hearing on the application earlier that night.

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.

Before the project can move forward, however, the proposal must receive final approval from the district’s board of education.

Optiwind is expected to make a formal presentation to the school board in February, according to Region 7 School District Superintendent Clint Montgomery.

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

If approved, the turbine will 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.

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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