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What’s next for EBEC and the Tiverton Industrial Park

The future of the East Bay Energy Consortium – and that of the Tiverton Industrial Park – remain uncertain four years after EBEC formed to develop a for-profit wind farm on the parcel.

The Tiverton Industrial Park is caught in a battle between the East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC) and private developers and Tiverton taxpayers are losing out.

EBEC, a regional partnership between nine East Bay communities, formed four years ago to explore ways to make money off of wind energy through net metering.

Targeting the Tiverton Industrial Park as the ideal location for such a venture, EBEC’s idea for the for-profit wind farm project might be holding back the park’s development rather than providing opportunity.

According to The Hummel Report, EBEC was started with about $400,000 of seed money from the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and its wind farm project would have made millions through net metering. Net metering allows private energy companies to sell excess energy to National Grid at retail prices.

“Why should we, if we could, make a profit on the backs of every single ratepayer in the whole state of Rhode Island,” asked Halsey Herreshoff, former Bristol Town Councilor, in an interview with Jim Hummel. Wouldn’t they hate us?”

When the EBEC project sparked the interest of a private developer who was willing to invest $55 million, internal EDC emails obtained by the Hummel Report show the EDC saw it as a threat.

“Disaster. It will destroy the EBEC project – not only the $$ we put in, but the model trying to be developed, for multi-municipal projects,” reads an Oct. 11 email from Julian Dash, former director to the agency’s Renewable Energy Fund, to Director Keith Stokes.

At least one other major development project in Tiverton is being derailed by EBEC uncertainty.

Gerald Felise, CEO of Natural Energy Generation, wants to invest $150 million into developing 600 acres near the industrial park, but said legislation that was ultimately shot down in congress earlier this year was holding him up. The legislation would have given EBEC the authority of eminent domain.

“I could care less about EBEC,” Felise said at a July Tiverton Town Council meeting. “I only started to care when they started to take on the power of eminent domain.”

On May 21, the Tiverton Town Council distanced itself from EBEC, passing a resolution citing “serious concerns” with “drafts of the legislation,” including granting the consortium eminent domain powers.

Now, according to the Hummel Report article, EBEC’s future – and the future development of the Tiverton Industrial Park – are uncertain. EBEC Chairwoman Jeanne Napolitano said the organization was looking to partner with a private entity to further the East Bay’s interests.

“A business partner, whether it be National Grid or anyone else. We want to make sure when we present our plan it’s economically viable, not only for the cities and towns but for them to engage us,” Napolitano told The Hummel Report.