TIVERTON – Wind turbines could be up and spinning in two years if the town signs on to wind energy, a developer told the Town Council on Monday night.
Power generated by six to eight turbines could provide up to 24 megawatts of electricity – enough to power thousands of homes – and would generate lease payments of $8 million over 25 years to the town’s two water districts, according to Chris Swartley, vice president of project development for Apex Clean Energy. The town would also collect taxes from the facility, he said.
But, as several speakers noted, Tiverton residents need only look across the Mount Hope Bay to see a cautionary tale. The $1 million turbine owned by the town of Portsmouth, R.I., is broken and stalled and visible on the western horizon.
“Those of us who have been around for a while have seen the saga of wind energy in Tiverton,” Council President Edward Roderick said. “It has been a long process.
“That said, we need to do something about renewable energy. We can’t let this pass us by.”
The council met Monday in a workshop to discuss the idea that Tiverton should develop a wind farm on its own.
The meeting came after Garry Plunkett, a proponent for wind energy, told the council in May that the East Bay Energy Consortium that was looking at a group project to develop a wind farm was all but dead. Tiverton was one of nine East Bay towns that made up EBEC.
“It is great to know wind energy is still on the table,” Plunkett said. “This is, perhaps, the beginning of the Tiverton plan, the one we design for Tiverton only.”
Swartley and Apex Clean Energy was a consultant to EBEC, and it has drawn up preliminary plans for the wind farm EBEC proposed for Tiverton in land owned by the Stone Bridge Fire District and the North Tiverton Fire District – the two quasi-public agencies that provide drinking water to the town.
That land is viable, Plunkett and Swartley told the council, because it has consistent wind, has no nearby neighbors and has a high-voltage power line and an electrical substation in the neighboring industrial park. Those facilities are capable of accepting the power the turbines would produce, the council was told.
“During construction, this project would hire 33 people,” Swartley said. “For full-time jobs, it would be seven people for maintenance. It is our policy to hire locally.”
Stephen Wollenburg of People’s Power and Light also spoke. That company, a nonprofit based in Boston, provides consulting expertise to municipalities considering ventures in renewable energy.
The company would be available to help the town through the financing process if the town considers developing the project on its own. The organization can also help town officials negotiate a better deal if it hires a private company like Apex to develop a wind farm.
Councilor Jay Lambert said the council would need several more meetings before it would sign off on any project.
“What is the economic benefit to the town?” he said. “I understand there will be taxes paid, but at some point I want to hear dollars and cents.
“We have to think through the impact the turbines will have on the development of the industrial park.”
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