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Wind energy consultants submit proposals

Interviews with bidders for a wind power feasibility study are scheduled for next week, the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee announced at its Feb. 12 meeting. Financing and further stages of the project were also discussed.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer sent out 20 requests for bids and received six proposals from consulting companies that specialize in the sustainable energy industry. Most applicants offered a two-phase approach to the study, Bryer said. She expressed satisfaction with a multi-stepped approach, in consideration of funding for the project. “The study must be broken up into phases,” Bryer said.

Criteria for selection of a consultant will be based on a comparison of details offered in the proposals. “I will take notes on each one, and then create a matrix,” Bryer said.

In the request for proposals, the committee asked for a consulting partner who could provide the professional studies required to plan a wind power generator for the town. The study is expected to include evaluations of sites, fi- nancial modeling, environmental requirements, legal requirements, and other necessary elements that the volunteer committee cannot supply on its own.

In a discussion about funding, committee members mentioned renewable energy programs at the state level. Wind committee chairman Don Wineberg said he would work on the first part of the renewable energy fund grant application for funding of the study.

Committee members agreed to ask the state’s Office of Energy for $35,000, to augment the town’s commitment of up to $25,000.

Committee member Clayton Carlisle read aloud a letter from Lily Wright, a student at the Jamestown Schools. The letter included a petition voicing support of windmills on the island, with four pages of signatures from students and staff in the district. The committee penned a response to Wright’s letter, and decided to include it in the grant application as evidence of support for the island’s sustainable energy plan.

Committee member Abigail Anthony suggested talking to the University of Rhode Island Partnership for Energy, which does outreach programs. The grantdriven partnership plans to involve students, faculty and existing resources at URI and link them with consumers and energy industries outside the school. “They have a bunch of undergraduates who need to do projects,” Anthony said.

The committee also discussed legislation avenues that could protect the market for wind power. Wineberg brought up feed-in tariffs, “national mandates that would require National Grid to pay at least a minimum price.”

Questions arose regarding the price at which a premium should be set, and the politics involved in passing bills for the tariffs. A feedin law would require electricity utility companies to buy renewable energy at above-market rates.

“There’s quite a bit of interest in supporting the concepts that we have been bantering about. I think we can be optimistic about it,” Wineberg commented. “If you push the premium high enough, you can actually have the town making money.” He noted that FITs were different from net metering, which “lets you apply what you generate to bring your bill down to zero.”

Feed-in tariffs place a legal obligation on utilities to purchase electricity from renewable energy installations. The tariff rate would ensure profitable operation of the installation.

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown Press

21 February 2008