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Westport residents turn out for informational meeting on wind turbine proposal

WESTPORT – About a dozen members of the public took advantage of an opportunity to be heard Wednesday night, as the Energy Committee held an informational meeting about wind turbines.

Wind turbines have been a matter of discussion in Westport since 2003, when the Energy Committee was formed.

“Our charge was to explore the merits of a commercial-grade wind turbine at the town forest property in order to raise revenue for the town,” said Energy Committee Chairman David Dionne.

Atlantic Design engineers have completed the first half of a feasibility study and came to the Town Hall Annex on Wednesday to take questions.

Atlantic President Simon B. Thomas said his company believes an economically viable wind turbine can be built on a piece of the 24-acre Town Forest behind the Fire Station at 54 Hixbridge Road, where his company has been conducting wind velocity studies.

“We are looking at small, medium and large turbines for the area,” Thomas said.

“We’re not here to do the entire merits of wind power,” Dionne said. “We’re here to do the feasibility study.”

Westport resident Betty Michaels, whose home at 918 Main Road would be within 800 feet of the turbine, said she was concerned about noise and about the effect on property values in her neighborhood.

While Dionne said he couldn’t speak to property values, he said there are locations in the state where wind turbines are within 300 feet of homes.

Former Selectman and Energy Committee member Brian Valcourt said turbines do not create unbearable levels of noise.

“On Aquidneck Island, the turbines are 150 feet to 300 feet away from homes,” Valcourt said. “There hasn’t been a single neighbor complaint.”

Other residents expressed concerns about who would bear the cost.

Town Administrator Michael Coughlin said that grants would pay for some of the construction but town money would be used.

“This would have to be brought before a future Town Meeting for bonding or debt exclusion,” Coughlin said.

Wind data taken from a test tower for Lees Market shows that a wind turbine would be feasible at 80 meters (about 260 feet) or 100 meters (about 328 feet), according to Dionne.

The average wind speed there is higher than it is at the turbine in Portsmouth, R.I., Dionne said. Energy savings should make up for the costs within 10 years, Dionne said, noting that the turbine could be connected to the new fire station or tied directly into the power grid.