The Portsmouth Town Council on Monday voted unanimously to move forward with a plan to to sign a letter of intent with North Kingstown-based Wind Energy Development, paving the way for the broken turbine at the high school to be replaced.
Under the terms of the proposed 25-year deal, the town would buy electricity from WED at a rate of .155kWh and WED would assume operational liability for the turbine. The town currently still owes $1.62 million on the existing, broken turbine with annual debt service payments of $221,670. Those debts will be paid off by WED and they would be responsible for taking down and replacing the existing turbine with a somewhat smaller model.
Portsmouth voters approved a $3 million bond to build the turbine in 2007 and it broke in 2012.
Town officials said the benefit of the deal is that it eliminates the town’s risk as owner/operator since those obligations would be transferred to WED. The town would also be getting annual payments and on Monday, Town Administrator John Klimm said that WED has agreed to make an up-front payment of $900,000, which serves as a hedge against the company going out of business or going bankrupt, which is what happened to the company that installed the existing turbine.
The deal will require the town buy at minimum 3.8 million kW/hr from WED per year, which means the school district is a needed partner. Town and school officials have been meeting over the past few weeks over the possible terms of the arrangement. School officials have been pushing for a promise that if rates go below the fixed .155kWh rate in the deal, the town would pay the difference to the schools.
The School Committee is expected to vote on the issue on Nov. 5. The following day, the Town Council has planned a special meeting to review the contract a final time before the Nov. 7 deadline in the contract.
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