Warren is looking into the possibility of wind power. At their next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 13, Warren Town Council members will review a proposed ordinance that would allow them to look into setting up wind turbines in town in hopes of reducing the amount paid for electricity in municipal applications.
Councilor Joseph DePasquale said it costs about half a million dollars each year to provide electricity to all the municipal sites in town, including street lights. He said the idea for wind energy carries more than one benefit.
“First and foremost are the benefits to the environment, and we hope to also carry on cost saving measures,” he said. “In a nutshell, we are really trying to lessen our dependence on fossil fuels.”
Mr. DePasquale is a member of the Rhode Island Wind Alliance, and in town, helped to get CREW (Committee for Renewable Energy in Warren) off the ground. CREW is an advisory board to the town council.
The process so far has included gathering information from a similar group in Bristol which has looked into the wind power concept, the impact of the wind turbine at Portsmouth Abbey School, and speaking to members of the United States Coast Guard about the possibility of locating a wind turbine on Allen’s Rock, at the mouth of the Warren River.
There is also the possibility of locating wind turbines in agricultural land in town.
The proposed ordinance stipulates that any future turbine would be placed on town-owned or reserved land.
“The town manager will advise the Warren town council regarding the appropriateness of locating a wind turbine on any land that may be purchased in the future by the town of Warren for open space, or any land currently in agricultural use for which the town of Warren may purchase development rights,” it reads.
This does not mean a wind turbine could be arbitrarily set down wherever the town has agricultural rights, however.
“This is a voluntary program. This shouldn’t alarm anyone; it isn’t site specific,” Mr. DePasquale said, adding that it should not cause a problem with farmland or livestock.
“Cows don’t care if they walk around under a wind turbine. Corn doesn’t care if it grows under a wind turbine.”
At this point the idea is still in the preliminary stages. More information needs to be gathered, including the wind speeds at certain locations. One site that is being considered, Allen’s Rock, currently holds a blinking navigational warning light. If a wind turbine were located on the rock, it would not block the operation of the light, Mr. DePasquale said.
If a wind turbine were feasible at Allen’s Rock, it could offset the cost of the electricity used for the sewer treatment plant on Water Street, which costs about $100,000 to power each year, according to Mr. DePasquale.
Mr. DePasquale said some of the feasibility of wind energy in town depends on future legislation which could combine the many electrical meters in town onto one bill. Mr. DePasquale said Warren probably has 100 meters which are paid for individually. If they were combined, it would make wind turbines more practical, because a turbine would not need to be site specific.
Mr. DePasquale said the next step in the process, besides passing the ordinance, is a town-wide survey investigating residents’ reactions to wind power.
The exact height of a wind turbine if one or more were to be placed in town is yet to be determined, but Mr. DePasquale said the heights generally vary from 160 to 325 feet.
The committee has looked at local places which have considered or installed a wind turbine, including Portsmouth Abbey. Mr. DePasquale said the wind turbine in Portsmouth has performed even better than the projected return.
“They met their financial points and exceeded them. Their turbine should be paid off in less than seven years,” he said.
Capturing wind data
Mr. DePasquale said it is necessary to gather the right data to find out the feasibility of wind turbines in certain locations. The choices for gathering data include erecting a meteorological tower capable of gathering information, or purchasing some new technology to accomplish the same goal. The state has wind maps that can provide a good jumping off point, he said, and then specific data can be gathered at chosen sites.
“Wind velocity can vary a lot within a quarter mile. A location with wind speeds of 7 meters per second, that site is potentially sustainable as far as return for investment,” he said.
Mr. DePasquale said there is a wind data collection unit from a company called Second Wind which is being considered for determining wind speed information. The unit, called a Triton, is about the size of a desk, although taller, about six feet tall.
“It’s movable, it’s not a tower and it doesn’t require setup,” he said.
Want to join the CREW?
Anyone with questions is welcome to come to a meeting of CREW (Committee for Renewable Energy in Warren). Town council liaison Joseph DePasquale said the committee welcomes input. Meetings are held downstairs on the first floor of the town hall in the senior center on the third Thursday of the month at 7 p.m. “We want to hear from everyone. Anybody with questions or objections can come and be part of the creation process,” he said.
BY CINDY VANSCHALKWYK
10 August 2007