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Portsmouth considers partnership to fix turbine

PORTSMOUTH – What should the town do with its wind turbine? The answer may be found in a future partnership that could get those blades moving again.

In 2007 voters approved a $3 million bond issue for the turbine, which sits behind the tennis courts at the high school. Idle since June 2012 because of a broken gear box, it came up before the Town Council Monday night for the first time since last October.

Back then, said Town Planner Gary Crosby, the council requested that negotiations for a solution were continued with two bidders. “Ultimately, we couldn’t come together for an agreement,” Mr. Crosby said, noting there was a problem with the request for proposal (RFP), a document that elicits bids from potential companies the town would hire. The town went back out to bid in early December.

“We opened the bids and we had four respondents,” said Mr. Crosby. Although he couldn’t speak in detail about the bids – the council would go into executive session later on for that – he did speak in general terms about the different options available to the town.

One would be to have the town pay for the repairs to the gearbox and resume operation and ownership of the turbine, which would cost anywhere from $580,000 to $730,000. The town would continue to sell power to National Grid.

Also under this scenario, the town would enter into an operations and maintenance contract with a third-party service provider that would handle minor repairs and monitor the turbine. In addition, an insurance policy paid for by the town would cover any future problems with the turbine, he said.

“This is something we didn’t have in the past,” Mr. Crosby said.

Another option would be for a developer to take down and replace the turbine at no charge to the town, then lease the property from the town to cover the debt on the original turbine – about $2.3 million. This contractor would also enter into an agreement to sell power to National Grid. This option ensures that “someone else” would pay the town’s debts, said Mr. Crosby.

Yet a third option the town could consider would be to remove the turbine and sell it for scrap metal. “The downside to that is that the town pays off the debt without a matching set of revenue,” Mr. Crosby said.

The council took no action and discussed the options further in executive session later that night.