Wind energy on Jamestown could take several forms, according to Jamestown’s Wind Energy Committee. However, in order to determine the best option, the town is being asked to allocate upwards of $50,000 in funding for a wind energy feasibility study.
In their first presentation to the town council on Monday, members of the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee requested the funds in order to hire third-party consultants to navigate the town through the site selection, economic analysis, and initial project design process.
According to wind energy cochair William “Bucky” Brennan, the committee is expert at many things, however wind engineering is not one of them. The feasibility study would identify potential sites, assess the economic impact, and recommend the best path for the town.
In addition to funding, committee members also asked that the town revisit zoning restrictions currently in place that restrict construction of wind turbines on designated open space 2 districts, which includes areas such as Ft. Getty.
The study, which would cost anywhere from $25,000 for a minimal assessment of pre-selected sites to $50,000 for a full-scale assessment of potential sites on the island, can be funded either directly by the town, or potentially through partial state or federal loans.
Both Portsmouth and the state have opted to seek out expert recommendations in order to plan for their proposed wind projects.
Currently two potential turbine projects have been identified by the committee: a single “behind the meter” project reserved for municipal use, and a larger project which could generate enough electricity for the town to sell to the utility grid, help power the island, and act as a potential revenue stream. Because of the intricacies of each project, committee members felt strongly that an outside party was needed in order to guide the town through what is a relatively new process.
Council members were supportive of the idea of pursuing alternative energy sources on the island, however differed in their initial opinions regarding study funding.
Councilor Michael Schnack expressed his support of bringing in a third party to independently recommend the best potential site for a turbine while also inquiring about the possibility of deferring some of the costs to the next fiscal year should the council choose to satisfy the committee’s request.
Councilor Barbara Szepatowski also expressed her support for the alternative energy project and voiced her support for contracting locally-based engineers. “I think it would be great if this money could go to a local contractor,” she said.
Meanwhile, Council Vice President Julio DiGiando, who also supports the committee’s mission, wondered what exactly the town would be paying for should it decide to fund the study.
Brennan responded succinctly that it would provide the town with clear direction for the development of an island-based wind project and a better basis for the town to take further action.
The issue is expected to be placed on the agenda for a vote at the next regularly scheduled council meeting.
Wind committee members in attendance included: Brennan, Robert Bowen, Clayton Carlisle, William W. Smith III, Don Wineberg, Abigail Anthony and Michael Larkin.
In the open session, State Representative Bruce Long (R – Jamestown, Middletown) expressed his full support of the town’s wind energy project. Also in the open session, Valerie Malloy, of Columbia Avenue, expressed her concern over town spending in regard to the Wind Energy Committee’s request for $50,000 in funding. “I’m trying to be as green as I can be,” Molloy said. However she stressed that financial commitments such as the highway barn, new town hall, and farmland acquisition should be considered when making the decision whether to fund a wind energy feasibility study.
By Tom Shevlin
13 September 2007
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