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Portsmouth High wind turbine left idling

PORTSMOUTH – The debate over wind turbines seems to be getting hotter. Westerly recently abandoned plans for two 420-foot turbines. Throughout the spring, a multi-city and -town wind collaborative, called the East Bay Energy Consortium, was bashed by various groups, and even lost support from Gov. Lincoln Chafee.

Now, the state’s tallest turbine sits idle and faces about $400,000 in costs to replace the generator. The company that installed the turbine in 2009 has gone bankrupt, invalidating its 5-year warranty. The turbine, which sits next to the high school, has been out of use since June 15. The Town Council is debating its next move.

Town finance director David Faucher is compiling the numbers and options to present at the Aug. 14 council meeting. Since it started spinning, he said, the turbine has delivered $400,000 net money to the town. That’s after paying maintenance and debt service for the $3 million project. That money has gone to the School Department and the town’s general fund.

Faucher said the town may also consider taking advantage of federal tax credits to join in a public-private partnership with a firm to maintain the turbine and share in the revenue.

Acting town planner Gary Crosby has been the point person on the turbine from the start. He said he always makes time to speak with the media, skeptics and the public about all the facts and figures relating to the 336-foot-high wind turbine and related wind energy issues. “There’s a lot of misinformation,” he said. “I wish more people would call me.”

His phone number is 401-643-0332.