Portsmouth residents now have an online resource to help them decide whether to support installing wind turbines on school property.
The town Economic Development Committee’s Sustainable Energy Subcommittee this week unveiled a Web site, www.portsmouthrienergy.com, aimed at informing residents about wind energy and on a proposal to build a turbine at the high school and/or middle school to save money on electricity costs. The site includes information on sustainable energy, funding sources and environmental impacts.
“It’s community outreach,” said Gary L. Gump, an EDC member and chairman of the energy subcommittee. “The attempt is to make sure Portsmouth is totally involved in this whole effort. There are folks who are rightfully concerned about this, that or the other. Some people will be happy with the information and others won’t, but at least they’ll have all the facts.”
The Town Council and School Committee in January each approved resolutions supporting a local vote on issuing bonds to pay for one or two turbines.
This week, the council awarded a $19,900 contract to Applied Technology & Management Inc. of Newport to conduct a study on the area’s wind resources and the feasibility of siting turbines on school property. The study is funded by a grant from the state Renewable Energy Fund.
In June, the EDC is expected to present to the council the study’s findings and the board’s recommendation, Gump said.
Early figures pegged the cost of installing both turbines at about $3 million.
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 has 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.
The EDC would only support putting a bond referendum to the voters if data shows the turbines would be economically viable. The EDC would also ask voters whether they support wind energy and won’t proceed with the project unless most residents support the concept, Gump said.
Preliminary data has shown that 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 have said.
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.
To find out more about wind energy potential in Portsmouth, visit the town Economic Development Committee’s Sustainable Energy Subcommittee’s Web site at www.portsmouthri.energy.com.
By Meaghan Wims/Daily News staff
12 April 2007