TIVERTON – A proposed wind-energy project located in the Industrial Park is still a couple of years away from becoming a reality, if it clears all the necessary hurdles.
East Bay Energy Consortium Tiverton representative Garry Plunkett said the next step in the project is getting approval from the General Assembly to form a public corporation with representatives from each of the nine Rhode Island towns in the consortium – Bristol, Warren, Barrington, East Providence, Portsmouth, Little Compton, Tiverton, Middletown and Newport. The public corporation would be responsible for operating and managing the facility and would assume all liability.
“That has to be enabled by the state to get this project done,” Plunkett said. “I’m pretty confident if that doesn’t get done, towns won’t take action on it.”
Should they get state approval, there would still have to be a series of public hearings, computer simulations and requests for proposal. Plunkett said he expects that process to take until 2014.
“It’ll be two years minimum before we see anything out there,” Plunkett said.
The proposal, which is subject to change, currently calls for the EBEC to develop wind energy at the Industrial Park. A study conducted by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation in 2010 cited the Tiverton location as an ideal spot for a wind-energy project because of the strong winds coming off the Sakonnet River, ample land to place the wind turbines and the ability to connect project to the electric power grid.
Plunkett said the total cost of the project could be around $50 million, and Tiverton could realize income of $1.14 million annually for a 20-year period.
“The towns would get all the revenues above what it takes to operate the turbines,” Plunkett said.
Plunkett said the project would have to include incentives for Tiverton, which would be the host town.
“It’s our properties, our views that are affected,” Plunkett said.
Town Administrator James Goncalo said nothing has been decided with regard to the proposal. The Town Council is also listening to other proposals with regard to the Industrial Park.
“Everything is still up in the air,” Goncalo said. “The council is waiting for some solid proposals and some answers before they commit to anything. The council will obviously lean toward the proposal that is in the best interest of the town.”
Councilor Robert Coulter said he is generally in favor of the proposal but would like to see a proper balance of the town getting the best return on its investment while also not negatively affecting the quality of life for residents that live near the Industrial Park. He also wants Tiverton to have final say on all financial matters and the ability to block towns from taking Tiverton property by eminent domain.
“I will only support legislation and a project which does not adversely impact neighbors, protects the town’s residents from eminent domain and also requires our consent to lease and pilot arrangements,” Coulter said. “The important thing is to utilize the Industrial Park in a way that maximizes the return on the town’s investment, and do so in a way that does not negatively impact the community, especially nearby residents.”