BRISTOL – The town is set to go out to bid for an engineering survey of possible local sites for a large wind turbine.
The Town Council last night unanimously voted to request proposals for a study that would look in detail at such possible sites as the Town Beach, the landfill and Mount Hope Farm.
Council Chairman Kenneth A. Marshall pushed for the survey to jump-start stalled plans to erect an industrial-size turbine that could offset the town’s use of electricity. The data would be used to support an application for federal money for the project, which was first raised in Bristol three years ago.
Since then, residents who participated in a survey carried out by Roger Williams University showed overwhelming support for putting up a turbine. More importantly, during a local nonbinding referendum last year – the first of its kind in the state – the vast majority of voters also backed the idea.
But there has been little progress over the past year.
“I brought this up for discussion so it wouldn’t die,” Marshall told the council last night.
The study would not only give the town more information about erecting a turbine, he said; it would also be a crucial part of applying for Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBs) from the Internal Revenue Service. The interest-free bonds could be an important part of financing the purchase and installation of a turbine.
Already, said Marshall, in response to a story in yesterday’s Journal, he had been contacted by a Montana-based company that specializes in CREB applications.
“Just by posing the question we’re already receiving interest,” Marshall said.
His colleagues on the council spoke positively about pursuing a wind energy plan.
“The federal government is behind this,” said councilman David Barboza. “The state government is behind this. The local government is behind this. I think this is a step in the right direction.”
“I believe it would be fulfilling the wishes of the electorate in Bristol to explore this further.”
In 2004, when parks and recreation director Walter V. Burke put forward a proposal to install a wind turbine at the Town Beach to power the recreation complex there, few other communities in Rhode Island were contemplating using wind energy.
Now, towns all along the state’s coast, from Little Compton to Westerly, are seriously pursuing plans. Many have responded to early signs of success at Portsmouth Abbey, the private school that in March 2006 put up the first, and only, wind turbine in the state that can power more than a handful of homes.
Council member Mary Parella said Bristol needs to put together a concrete proposal soon so it can compete for state and federal money.
“I really feel like now we need to get moving,” she said. “Other towns have caught up and are passing us by.”
By Alex Kuffner
Journal Staff Writer
30 August 2007