NORTH SMITHFIELD – A proposal to build a wind energy turbine behind Dowling Village that has been in the works for several years could come to fruition next month if DV Wind can get a test tower up before winter.
The project was abandoned in 2011 after DV Wind, a partnership formed between the Rhode Island-based company Wind Energy Development and the developer of the Eddie Dowling Highway retail center, was unable to reach lease agreement with the owners of the 40-acre parcel of land behind the Wal-Mart Supercenter, Ram Investment.
Resident Caroly Shumway and the North Smithfield Land Trust, a non-profit dedicated to protecting the town’s natural resources, had secured a $400,000 grant from the state Department of Environmental Management for the project as a means to protect the land, an upland forest by Booth’s Pond, but the funding expired before a rental deal could be reached.
With a new signed lease in hand and a current grant secured, Eric Offenberg of Wind Energy Development was back before the Town Council with plans including a time and payment schedule.
“If we were to say yes today, you’re not looking at having a wind turbine up and running for the next year and two to three months,” explained Offenberg.
To begin the project, Offenberg said, his company must first install a 195-foot meteorological tower to measure wind gusts at the site and determine how much power a turbine could produce. With wind at its strongest level over the winter months, Offenberg’s plan would require the tower to go up next month.
“We would like to be able to put up a MET tower in November,” he said. The time schedule would see the turbine erected between August and September of 2013.
While the wind developers would initially lease 2.5 acres of the property from current owner Ram, the plan calls for the town to eventually purchase 40 acres from the Woonsocket-based company for $925,000 with the help of the grant and a bond.
The prior Town Council had approved a purchase and sales agreement for the property, but the contract expired when the DEM grant was lost.
Funding for the project is still available through the $3-million open space bond approved by voters in 2006.
The wind energy company would pay back the investment through proceeds from the turbine plus lease payments, starting a $40,000 a year for the first 12 years, then scheduled to increase over time.
Offenberg’s schedule had the company paying $134,784 to the town when the structure is at 81 to 100 years old.
Attorney Richard Nadeau pointed out that the town has yet to have input in the lease agreement and the initial $40,000 payment could be a point of contention when North Smithfield accounts for lost tax revenue on the property.
“My issue with the lease is it was negotiated with the last council,” said Nadeau. “I don’t know if the economics have changed and there’s been no review by this council.”
The turbine would have the potential to be 496 feet high and is estimated to be capable of generating about 5 million kilowatt-hours. If the turbine produced beyond 30 percent capacity then 10 percent of those revenues would come back to the town.
“I think it is a good deal as long as there is a payback to the town for this,” said Town Council Member Paul Zwolenski.
“I look at is as a price of admission. I like the idea. It has some merit, but we have to flush it out.”
Nadeau is currently reviewing the proposal and answering questions on the project for council members. He said he is unsure when it will go back before the council for vote.
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