WESTERLY – The Town Council’s level of commitment to a wind energy project will be revealed Wednesday when it votes on a proposed power purchase agreement between the town and a developer promising to save the town millions of dollars with the erection of two wind turbines.
The council is expected to vote on the proposed agreement with WED Westerly LLC, an affiliate of Wind Energy Development of North Kingstown, during a special meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. The company has said that it would erect two 2-megawatt, 420-foot turbines, capable of meeting the electricity needs of the town’s municipal buildings, excluding schools. Company officials have said they would provide electricity to the town at rates that would save the town $17 million to $20 million over the course of the 20-year agreement, based on the town’s recent history of spending for electricity.
The Town Council selected Wind Energy Development as a green energy partner in December. The selection followed several years of study by the town’s Alternative Energy Committee into wind, solar, and other alternative energy methods. Wind Energy Development conducted its own study of potential sites for a wind energy project, finally settling on a wooded area of the Bradford Preserve and an adjacent town-owned site off of Old Carriage Road. The council will inspect the sites during a special meeting scheduled for 4:45 p.m. at the Bradford Preserve lacrosse field.
The company has asked the Town Council to approve a power purchase agreement as a condition before it proceeds with further studies to determine the feasibility of the sites. Eric Offenberg, engineering developer for Wind Energy Development LLC, said Monday that the town would be subject to a breakup fee if it approves the power purchase agreement but pulls out of the project at a later date.
The amount of the breakup fee would depend, Offenberg said, on how much his company had spent on the project at the time of the town’s decision to withdraw. If the project fails to gain the necessary state or federal permits Offenberg said the town would not be charged. Likewise, if the town’s land use boards reject the project and the rejection withstands appeals, the town would not be charged, Offenberg said.
Wind Energy Development will pay for the $4 million project through equity and loans obtained by the company. An approved power purchase agreement must be signed by the town in order for Wind Energy Development to obtain financing, Offenberg said.
The agreement is based on the town’s current consumption of 9 million kilowatt-hours per year. A proposed rate schedule calls for the town to be charged 11.5 cents per kilowatt-hour for the first three years of the agreement. The rate would then increase incrementally to about 16 cents per kilowatt-hour in year 20 of the agreement.
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