BERLIN — The historic town’s skyline is about to look a little eco-friendlier with the town’s first wind turbine approved for installation on Old Ocean City Boulevard.
Until Monday, the fate of a proposed 85-foot, 50-killowatt turbine had been up in the air since creator and DDU Magnetics President Doug Richards offered to install his new design in Berlin for a severely reduced cost. The town would get the turbine for a fraction of its actual value because it would function as a model that Richards could show to potential investors.
The original site on Schoolfield Street considered back in January, however, was dropped due to push-back from residents. Many in the neighborhood signed a petition protesting the turbine and residents also attended several council meetings. They complained that they were not given enough notification or information on the turbine and feared that it would be an eyesore, noisy and diminish property values.
There were no such issues with the new site on Old Ocean City Boulevard. The wind turbine will be located on the lot formerly known as Rayne’s Sand and Gravel. Looking to avoid any complaints over a lack of transparency, the Mayor and Council instructed Electric Utilities Director Tim Lawrence to visit property owners in the area personally and distribute information.
“All of the property owners that I talked to, in person, they were in favor of it,” Lawrence told the council Monday. “I didn’t receive any phone calls against it.”
In fact, Lawrence revealed that a number of property owners in the area were supportive of the installation of the turbine. With some of the concerns expressed earlier by Schoolfield Street residents, especially in regards to noise, Lawrence pointed out that DDU promises its turbine will be near-silent thanks to Richards’ unique design.
Chris Graf, who will serve as onsite project manager for the turbine, emphasized that the DDU turbine will be “cutting edge technology” and features a gearless design, which will make it even quieter than average turbines.
Mayor Gee Williams said that he is glad to see the plan moving forward and believes the turbine will be “an exciting project that hopefully will be a source of pride for the community.”
“I think it will be,” replied Graf. “We’ve seen a lot of these go up in places in the country. I was mostly involved with larger turbines. But a lot of communities are getting involved in this type of thing. They like to be visionary, the townships that are looking to do that.”
Because the Berlin turbine will feature a new design never installed anywhere else in the world, Graf gave the town additional kudos.
“You’re really taking a step forward and a step ahead of everyone else,” he said.
Williams agreed and added that this is likely only the beginning for alternative energy in Berlin.
“We’ll take it one step at a time but this is a very important big step,” he said.
On behalf of the council, Williams also thanked Lawrence for the amount of effort he’s put into getting information out into the community, both with residents on Old Ocean City Boulevard and Schoolfield Street.
“He took this bull by the horns and I think it was good public outreach in both neighborhoods,” said Williams.
Now that the project has been approved, Town Administrator Tony Carson told the council that the information still needs to be reviewed by the town’s energy consultants to make sure the turbine meshes with Berlin’s power purchase agreement. However, the expectation there is that everything will fit nicely and the council will now be waiting for a construction timeline from DDU.