PORTSMOUTH – The founder and chairman of the company that owns and operates the town wind turbine on Wednesday night promised actions it will take in an attempt to satisfy nearby property owners who argue the machine hinders their quality of life.
Mark DePasquale of Green Development LLC laid out the next steps at the end of a two-hour meeting with aggrieved residents.
The company will inspect the three blades affixed to the 279-foot-tall turbine. It will then temporarily install devices on a couple of nearby properties that will take sound readings over the course of seven to 14 days. Based on the findings of that study, the company will try to address issues with individual property owners, according to DePasquale. The company might also be able to tinker with the operations of the turbine, according to Theodor Peters, an employee of Vensys Energy, the company that manufactured the turbine.
Peters and Green Development representatives fielded numerous questions and complaints from most of the roughly 10 residents present at Town Hall.
In recent months, the turbine’s noise and flicker, the name for the shadows generated by the spinning blades, has come to the fore, with residents petitioning the Town Council for relief. Council President Keith Hamilton previously told the residents, “We have leased out the property and it is currently the responsibility of the developer and the turbine owner (Green Development) to mitigate the issues.”
The council instructed Town Administrator Richard Rainer to organize the meeting, which had been rescheduled twice.
The residents on Wednesday voiced their frustrations, at times sounding exasperated by what they say has been the company’s unwillingness to help them.
“You guys do nothing,” resident David Souza said. “I have called your office three times when [the conditions are] really bad. I never heard back.”
DePasquale said his company has made efforts to call back all the residents and said he would visit them at their homes.
Resident Denise Wilkey asked if the company could bear the financial burden of moving the turbine to another location in town, to which DePasquale said it cannot. Even shutting it down for certain stretches, which Wilkey asked about, is not tenable, he said.
If the Town Council wanted to dismantle the turbine, or move it elsewhere, it likely would have to renegotiate its deal with Green Development.
At the core of some complaints was the question: Why did someone decide to put a turbine next to Portsmouth High School in a residential area in the first place?
The town made a deal with a separate company that installed a turbine there. After the turbine broke down in 2012, Green Development struck an agreement with the town to remove the broken turbine, install the new one and pay off the town’s remaining debt for the first one. The town is buying some of the energy it generates at a rate of 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour for 25 years.
Green Development CEO Al Bucknam previously told The Daily News the company didn’t decide to put the turbine there, but simply “came to fix a problem for the town,” he said.
Federal Aviation Administration rules significantly limit where turbines can be installed on Aquidneck Island, according to DePasquale.
The blades of the new turbine started spinning in August 2016. He noted that the complaints had not been voiced until around this past January. Some of the residents contested that statement, saying they have complained before then. Resident Mark Jones said his elderly mother told him to “give them a chance” before complaining. “I let this go, and let this go, and let this go,” he said.
The conditions are the same, if not better, than when the last turbine operated there, company officials have previously said. DePasquale said it is his responsibility to ensure that is the reality.
He also cited possible fixes for certain properties, such as plantings, specially-crafted windows to limit flicker and even the construction of a deck onto one man’s home.
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