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Tiverton wind survey, test tower coming

TIVERTON – Thousands of local taxpayers will get a chance next week to express their views about a possible $60 million wind farm with multiple turbines proposed for the Tiverton Industrial Park and adjoining water authority properties.

A two-page “Tiverton Wind Energy Survey,” will be mailed out at no expense to taxpayers sometime the week of June 6, said Garry Plunkett, one of two Tiverton representatives (the other is Dennis Culberson) to the East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC), a group which is working with nine East Bay member communities.

The survey, prepared by Mr. Plunkett, will be enclosed with tax bills to 7,700 town property taxpayers, said ToniLyn McGowan, Tiverton tax collector.

The survey (10 questions) asks recipients if they generally support wind power, how informed they believe themselves to be, their views about turbines’ environmental impacts, appearance and other issues.

Completed surveys can be left in the town clerk’s or tax collector’s offices, Essex library, the drop boxes in front of Town Hall, or as instructed on the survey itself.

“The primary purpose of the survey,“ said Mr. Plunkett, “is to start a conversation about the possibility of locating wind turbines in town. It will give decision-makers a start on what Tiverton voters think of the idea.”

The survey follows a feasibility study begun in early 2009 funded by a grant of $1,000 to the EBEC to explore how nine East Bay communities could do something together about wind energy that they couldn’t do separately.

More study is on the way, he said

Met tower

A meteorological tower (called a “met tower”) intended to measure the wind is set to be installed this month at an Industrial Park location not far from the power company, Mr. Plunkett said. The tower will be 197 feet (60 meters) tall and will measure wind availability, velocity, volume, direction, and constancy over a full year.

The tower’s cost will be borne by the EBEC, under a grant, Mr. Plunkett said.

The results of the feasibility study, announced in the fall of 2010, were positive for Tiverton. “Tiverton was the star of the show,” Mr. Plunkett said at the time about the results of the study of nine East Bay communities and their suitability for serving as a host for a group of eight to ten wind turbines that could supple energy to them all. “There was no other site that even came close,” he said.

Mr. Plunkett said some towns don’t have the land for turbines, others don’t have access to the grid. Tiverton had it all, he said: Access to Route 24, access to the grid, isolation from residential areas, minimal effect on “scenic view sheds or historically sensitive sites,” and finally, an area large enough to accommodate all EBEC turbines.

The concept, Mr. Plunkett said, would be that all nine East Bay communities would pool their resources and place turbines on Tiverton’s site, and all of them would share the energy benefits.

Land adjoining the Tiverton Industrial Park is owned by the water authorities (Stonebridge and North Tiverton Fire Districts), both of which have consented to being included in the site analysis.

“Nothing has been decided in terms of building a wind farm,” Mr. Plunkett said. “We’re still early in the process. If there is a decision to proceed further, there will be a lot of chances for people to learn about it and discuss the options.”

Last year’s feasibility report identified such matters as studies of siting, soils, slopes, wetlands, wind patterns, access, and abutting property issues, all as needing to be conducted. Future studies should also address “avian risks, wetlands, watershed protection, visual impact, noise, and shadow flicker,” the feasibility report said.

Mr. Plunkett last fall that $335,000 in grant money had been approved by the state Economic Development Corporation to fund the mountain of analysis needed to evaluate the proposal.

The General Assembly is considering legislation that will address rate structures and financing options, among other matters, concerning the wind farm proposal, Mr. Plunkett said.