WESTPORT – A consultant helping the town examine the feasibility of erecting a wind turbine recently told the Alternative Energy Committee that his findings so far look promising.
Simon Thomas of Atlantic Design Engineers, LLC gave the committee a progress report on the final feasibility study being conducted on a possible wind turbine site, which will be completed within a month.
The study involves use of SODAR equipment, which combines elements of both sonar and radar to examine wind speed and other relevant factors on a site.
According to Thomas, preliminary data showed a site near the town’s new fire station to have wind speeds similar to what had been expected at an 80-meter elevation, in the range of 6.6 meters per second.
He added this may lead to even better results than initially expected, given improvements in the efficiency of new wind turbines since Westport began considering wind power.
At a recent meeting, committee member Brian Valcourt took the news as a sign that Westport was benefiting from the experiences of towns that had already studied the feasibility of wind power. He noted that tests in nearby Portsmouth, R.I., had garnered a slightly lower wind speed of 6.3 meters per second before that town had a turbine built.
However, resident Walter Barnes – who previously questioned the safety and operational soundness of wind turbines – demanded to know when the committee would further address concerns about the project’s impact on a nearby cemetery. Chairman David Dionne said this would be discussed when the results of the study come in, noting the site might not be found feasible for a turbine.
Barnes also asked why the town would not work with General Electric on the project; committee members said the company had indicated it did not engage in projects consisting of fewer than five turbines. Additionally, Barnes asked the committee to examine the dangers of ice thrown from turbines, something Valcourt noted was sometimes addressed by internal components that heated the turbine blades during cold weather.
Town Administrator Michael Coughlin expressed frustration at what he saw as Barnes’ effort to kill the project before it began, and the Rev. Katherine Mitchell of the Westport Point United Methodist Church said she was disappointed by a lack of civility between the two sides.
The committee’s next meeting is scheduled for 4 p.m. June 1 at Town Hall.
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