August 1, 2013
Rhode Island

Tiverton again taking close look at wind energy

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff | August 1, 2013 |

TIVERTON – The Town Council is again taking a close look at the potential of wind energy. A presentation during a July 29 workshop by wind developer Apex Clean Energy outlined plans for six to eight turbines on land owned by two water utilities.

Apex and the North Tiverton and Stone Bridge water districts have been discussing wind power since Apex last presented to the town two years ago. That meeting also included a proposal from the East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC) for a publicly owned wind project. The EBEC wind proposal for the town’s industrial park stalled after legislation was defeated last year to establish the regional municipal collaborative as a legal entity.

Andy Shapiro, who left the consortium to work for Apex, delivered the presentation in 2011. He no longer works for Apex.

The EBEC controls two years of wind measurements at the site. Whether or not Tiverton or a private wind developer can use the data is unresolved. Apex’s latest proposal relies on EBEC wind data. Town officials believe the data will be public once the EBEC officially drops its proposal.

At its July 15 meeting, the EBEC said it only has funding to complete the wind study and pay some outstanding bills. The wind data is still an asset, according to EBEC chairwoman Jeanne-Marie Napolitano. “We still have valuable information,” the Newport resident said. “It’s worth something.”

If the Town Council approves the latest Apex proposal, it would take at least two years to build. The town also must lift the moratorium on wind turbines it enacted in 2011.

The council seemed open to taking a closer look at wind energy after member William Gerlach initiated a review of the concept. Gerlach said Rhode Island’s cities and town must think about long-term energy needs. “At some point in time we’re going to have to figure this thing out,” he said.

Fellow council member Joan Chabot, however, expressed strong skepticism for the wind project. Chabot opposed the EBEC proposal and testified at the Statehouse against legislation that would have created the EBEC as a legal entity. “I’m not sure this is the way to go if you are to continue to have a prosperous Rhode Island,” she said.

Council President Edward Roderick said he believes in renewable energy, but added that “there’s a lot of questions that need to be answered.”

Roderick and council member Brett Pelletier said the town should be proactive about exploring its renewable energy potential rather than reacting to proposals. Wind developers have shown interest in the North Tiverton area in recent years because the area has steady windy and is close to an electric substation.

Apex said its latest plan would cost an estimated $50 million to $60 million. Apex would own the turbines and finance the cost through commercial banks. Apex estimated that annual lease payments would pay $8 million to the water districts over 30 years. Another $2.6 million would go to the town as taxes during that time. The proposed turbines have an electric capacity of 18-24 megawatts.

Thirty employees would be hired during the construction phase, according to Apex. At least seven full-time employees would be needed to operated and maintain the turbines.

Studies for noise and shadow flicker would still need to be conducted.

The Town Council plans to hold a meeting with the water district boards in late August.

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