WESTERLY – Two Bradford sites have been selected as locations for wind turbines that could begin generating electricity by the end of 2013.
One of the 420-foot turbines would be constructed in a wooded area of the Bradford Preserve. The second turbine would be constructed in an adjacent wooded area off of Old Carriage Road. The town owns both parcels. The Bradford Preserve site is managed by the Westerly Municipal Land Trust, which determined a wind turbine would not adversely affect open space and recreational opportunities at the preserve.
Officials with Wind Energy Development LLC, the North Kingstown firm selected in December by the Town Council to serve as the town’s wind energy partner, gave the council an update on the project’s progress this week. After months of study the firm determined that the town’s capped landfill on Route 91, the original site envisioned for both municipal wind and solar power projects, was not suitable due to its proximity to Westerly Airport. The Town Forest off of Laurel Avenue was also considered but found lacking.
Eric Offenberg, engineering developer of Wind Energy Development LLC, said his company determined it could meet the town’s current demand at municipal buildings for 9 megawatts of electricity per year and sell other power it generates with the wind turbines to National Grid. Offenberg said the firm’s projections show the town could save about $20 million in electricity costs over the course of a proposed 20-year power purchase agreement.
Wind Energy would provide electricity to the town at an agreed rate that would not change for the first three years. The rate would be subject to a 2 percent increase in the subsequent years, Offenberg said. The agreement would give the town the ability to budget a set amount for electricity costs for the duration of the agreement unlike the current system of estimating annual costs for budgeting purposes, Offenberg said.
Offenberg described the two turbines as a “utility scale project” that would provide a “sizeable savings” for the town. Wind Energy would invest $10 million in the project, he said.
The Town Council is expected to review a resolution Monday that would authorize Town Manager Steven Hartford to enter into a power purchase agreement with the company. Mark DePasquale, Wind Energy Development CEO, said he wants an agreement in place before proceeding to the next step – erecting a wind test tower and sonar unit. DePasquale said the company would collect data on the wind at the Bradford sites for about one year and would begin acquiring state, federal and local land use and environmental permits and approvals during the one-year test period. Ideally, DePasquale said, the wind turbines would be erected and producing power in December 2013.
Stephen Wood, of ESS Group Inc., an engineering consultant working on the project for Wind Energy Development, said the towers would produce less than 10 hours per year of shadow flicker off of the project site. Shadow flicker is the visual phenomenon created by wind turbine blades spinning in front of the sun and casting a “flickering” shadow. Wood said shadow flicker levels fewer than 30 hours per year are considered acceptable by industry standards.
The two wind turbines would be 900 feet from the closest residence and would be visible over the area’s tree line. DePasquale said noise generated by the turbines is likely to be less than “ambient noise” caused by wind blowing through the trees and other “ambient noise” in the area. The firm will develop more detailed noise level calculations if the one-year testing period begins. Blades on the turbines will spin at about 12 to 14 revolutions per minute.
Councilor Christopher Duhamel said that while additional scrutiny is necessary, the project “looks positive and like something that we, as a council, should support.”
In December the Council selected Wind Energy Development and rTerra as the town’s “green energy partners.” rTerra is seeking approval from the Planning Board and the Zoning Board of Review of a 1 megawatt solar array with 3,500 solar photovoltaic panels on town-owned land at 68 and 78 White Rock Road. rTerra would lease the property from the town for $12,500 per year for 15 years but the town would not be able to purchase power generated from the site until after the initial 15-year period.
Duhamel said he was disappointed to learn the details of the solar project that he said initially seemed to promise greater benefit to the town.
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