Portsmouth is one step closer to asking the General Assembly to approve putting a $3 million wind-turbine referendum on the local ballot – that is, if studies show the turbines would be worth the money.
While the town has yet to decide if it wants wind turbines at local schools, Portsmouth’s Economic Development Committee sought support from local leaders for putting the special-election request to state lawmakers. They must approve enabling legislation for special elections, and such requests are due by February, the deadline to submit legislation for inclusion in this General Assembly session.
Both the Portsmouth Town Council and the School Committee last week approved resolutions supporting a local vote on issuing bonds for the turbines. But a referendum won’t go to voters unless data shows the turbines would be economically viable.
The town is considering installing turbines at Portsmouth High School, Portsmouth Middle School, or both, to save money on electricity costs. Officials are inspired by the success of the 164-foot-tall wind turbine installed last summer at Portsmouth Abbey School, where it is exceeding energy-saving expectations.
“Our island is wind-rich,” EDC member Gary Gump said last week.
The town has permission to use up to $2.6 million in no-interest Clean Renewable Energy Bonds to pay for the installation. But that money must be tapped by Dec. 31.The EDC said it would seek borrowing up to $3 million, however, in case data shows that one larger turbine would be more economical than building two smaller towers.
Preliminary data shows the turbines, which have a 25-year lifespan, would generate some energy savings. The 12-year debt service on the bonds would be covered by the dollars saved, town officials said.
“We’ll have 13 years of full revenues,” netting an estimated $1.5 to $1.8 million, Gump said.
The EDC still is deciding whether building the turbines is worth it. The committee is developing a request-for-proposals to hire a firm to quantify how economically feasible the turbines would be, before the EDC brings its final recommendation to the Town Council.
A Portsmouth Town Council workshop on wind energy is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.
By Meaghan Wims/Daily News staff
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