Wind energy surveys that were recently sent out to Tiverton residents are now starting to arrive at Town Hall. The questionnaire (attached to this post) is a public opinion poll that will aid officials in their ongoing feasibility study of the potential of wind energy for Tiverton.
On Friday Garry Plunkett, liaison between the town and the East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC), said he’s picked up approximately 200 completed surveys. They went to the roughly 7,600 homes that receive tax notices. Plunkett notes that multiple Tiverton adults who reside in one household can make copies of the survey and turn them in, one per person. Copies are available at Town Hall.
“It’s to measure what people think about wind energy,” Plunkett said about the survey. “If this goes forward we’d have to do a lot of communication with the public, hold workshops to answer questions and so forth. Is there a general feel this is a good thing or not? What are the concerns? Are the concerns legitimate?”
After six weeks, Plunkett said he hopes to have enough surveys returned.
EBEC is a nine-town collaborative comprised of Tiverton, Little Compton, Portsmouth, Middletown, Newport, Bristol, Warren, Barrington and East Providence, charged to find ways of reducing energy costs and increase renewable energy.
Plunkett spent most of last week helping get a meteorological tower set up in the industrial park that will spend the next months studying the area’s potential for wind energy production.
The tower will be approximately 200 feet tall and will be viewable from Route 24.
“The meteorological tower will give us real data of wind at the site, which would be needed to design a complex of wind turbines to determine where they would go and how much they’d produce,” he said.
Plunkett said the cost of doing the wind study, paying consultants, getting the tower up and doing the data collection and analysis is $56,000 out of an approximate $335,000 grant obtained by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation. Plunkett added that he and resident Dennis Culberson volunteered to help get the tower up, and that a private tree removal company was covered by the grant to clear roughly an acre to an acre and a half to put up the tower.
“The tower has instruments on top of it,” Plunkett said. “They collect various things, and the main thing is wind direction, time of wind direction, how long it blows, at what speed and what direction. Direction is important.”
Plunkett said it is known that in the winter, most winds in Tiverton come from the northwest, while in the summer most winds from the south to southeast.
“But you still want to know how much wind comes at what direction,” he added. Plunkett noted that if wind turbines are going to be constructed to potentially serve nine communities, this information is important so a turbine isn’t built too close to another and create a “wind shadow” or diminish the amount of energy one single turbine can produce, similar in sailing when another boat “steals” another’s wind.
Since the tower is owned by the state, Plunkett said that once the wind study is finished, RIEDC can reuse it in the future.
A general study of the potential wind energy sites for the East Bay region was conducted in 2009 by Applied Science Associates, based out of South Kingstown, and overseen by EBEC. Plunkett said Tiverton’s site in the industrial park scored “head and shoulders” above the rest.
The subdividing of land parcels within the industrial park is being done in conjunction with the construction of the meteorological tower, where a firm was selected in March by the Tiverton Planning Board.
“So ideally, one thing about wind turbines, they have a small footprint and you have other industrial uses within a development that coexist with wind energy generation,” Plunkett said. “We’re looking to have flexibility with that plan.”
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