Most people share concerns about reducing carbon emissions and promoting the benefits of alternative energy. Experts and consumers all agree that by far the biggest and most immediately available method for lowering emissions is to reduce energy consumption by increasing efficiency and other conservation measures. A distant second is through such alternative energy sources such as wind power. Large wind-energy systems (LWES) should be where there are lots of wind and space.
As the American nation industrialized, we learned the value of organizing activities in the most efficient ways. For the electricity-supply business that meant building large generating plants with good distribution systems to serve large areas rather than placing generating plants in every town and village. This same principle applies to alternative-energy production. Scattering isolated production sites all over the landscape is not the way to develop an efficient alternative-power supply. That such installations are dependent on large public subsidies is proof of their inefficiency.
Consumers do not benefit from large (more than 400 feet high), isolated installations designed to produce excess power for sale into the power grid rather than for use on site. In fact, consumers might pay higher utility rates because National Grid might be required to buy the energy from the developer at a high price. The only person benefiting would be the developer – Wind Energy Development LLC, run by Mark DePasquale – not the citizens. Remember, the original goal was to reduce carbon emission, not to create huge profits for developers seeking to exploit the opportunities created by taxpayer subsidies.
Just because it is green doesn’t mean it is good!
Proposals for huge, isolated wind turbines have generated heated discussion across the state in recent months. The Scituate Town Council rejected a proposal that would allow wind turbines in residential neighborhoods. Middletown voted to strengthen its zoning ordinance, and the first order of business for the newly elected council in Charlestown was to impose a moratorium on such developments.
Tomorrow, the North Kingstown Planning Commission will be asked to approve placing a large wind-wind turbine on Route 2, just north of Schartner’s farm. It would be 427 feet high. This is taller than Rhode Island’s tallest building (Bank of America building) and three times the height of the wind turbine at New England Tech off Route 95. Three times the size – imagine! It is critical for the future of our community that this project not be approved!
The community impact of this proposed system would be devastating. Consider the following:
The setback required by town ordinance (recently revised to accommodate this project after the zoning board denied a permit) is about 264 feet. The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management recommends 650 feet and the maker of the turbine over 1,000 feet
Previous town councils over the past 20 years have spent millions of dollars, approved by taxpayers, to acquire “open space” to protect the rural character of North Kingstown. This power plant changes forever that rural character.
The health risk of “flicker” impact created by shadows of blades of turbines poses real and significant health risks, particularly seizures.
Route 2 is a heavily traveled and often dangerous road, particularly for those turning into neighborhoods abutting the proposed project. The gawk factor of a power plant close to this two-lane road will certainly increase hazards and accidents for those traveling on Route 2 and living in houses off Route 2.
Property values: It is well accepted that property values for homeowners living within certain distance of this power plant will decline; this simply is not fair.
When it comes to placing industrial-sized wind turbines in residential areas, the end does not justify the means. While there may be some suitable locations in Rhode Island, the consumers’ and citizens’ interests must be placed before the developers.
Laurence W. Ehrhardt is a Republican Rhode Island state representative from North Kingstown’s Wickford neighborhood. He is a member of the House Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Edward J. Cooney, former president of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce and vice president of Nortek Inc., is a former president of the North Kingstown Town Council and a resident of the Heritage Hills neighborhood.