May 30, 2012
Letters, Rhode Island

Get more answers before entering wind power deal

The Westerly Sun | 30 May 2012

Regarding Monday’s story “Westerly Turbine Project Still Alive,” I noted with great interest that “Plans call for the town to buy enough power (from the wind turbines ) to meet the needs of all municipal facilities, excluding school buildings.”

The most efficient wind farms produce their rated output less than fifty percent of the time. This awkward fact raises a few questions , such as:

Where will the necessary electricity come from when the wind turbines are not producing enough electricity to meet the town’s demands?

Will the town participate in the profits from selling wind turbine electrical output in excess of the town’s requirements?

Perhaps the definition of the town’s commitment to “buy enough wind generated electricity to meet the municipal buildings’ demands,” should be more clearly stated. If the commitment is based upon an annual assessment of the town’s electricity use, the town would have to both buy a year’s worth of wind energy, and then buy additional conventionally generated electricity to keep the lights on and the furnaces or air conditioning running when electricity from the wind turbines was not available.

Despite the promise from Wind Energy Development to sell turbine generated electricity to the town at “rates significantly lower than rates historically charged by National Grid” I wonder if buying both wind turbine and conventionally generated electricity would, in fact, produce savings for Westerly taxpayers.

With abundant and low cost natural gas, many utilities are switching to it to replace coal or oil fired generating facilities, producing lower electricity rates for their customers, suggesting perhaps that looking to history to establish electricity rates for the future bears careful consideration.

Bruce Pfund

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