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Green Development proposes wind turbines in Woonsocket

WOONSOCKET – Green Development, the renewable energy company known for its solar and wind projects around Rhode Island, has pitched a plan to build three wind turbines within the city of Woonsocket.

Two of the wind turbines would be located on land owned by the city near Highland Corporate Park off Park East Drive. A third turbine would be located on a city-owned parcel near the end of Lydia Avenue off Manville Road.

The company responded to a 2018 request by the city for renewable energy proposals to help offset energy costs at city-owned properties. At the time, company representatives proposed building solar panels on six city-owned parcels, four of which were selected as viable by the Renewable Energy Subcommittee.

Nearly two years after the subcommittee gave the administration the green light to move forward with negotiations, Public Works Director Steven D’Agostino said the company has come back to the city with a new plan.

“I met with Green Development probably a month ago, maybe a little more, and I said the administration would like to begin with a proposal for the council on Bourdon Boulevard and Manville Hill Road sites for solar panels. And this is the result of that request,” he told the council during a meeting last Wednesday, March 3.

D’Agostino said after the meeting, a representative of Green Development reached out to propose a new project narrative. A letter provided to the City Council from Green Development Director of Business Development Hannah Morini explains the company decided not to go forward with the proposed solar farms at Bourdon Boulevard or Manville Road. Morini cites high interconnection costs, financial viability, rough topography and steep slopes as reasons the company decided against the projects.

Instead, Morini said, the company decided the Manville Road site was “ideal for a wind turbine” due to its high elevation. The Park East Drive sites, she wrote, had similarly “optimal potential” due to their locations on top of a hill.

Each of the wind turbines would generate 1.5 megawatts of electricity.

The proposal got a cool reception from city councilors who spoke up during the meeting. Councilor John Ward said he was concerned about the noise factor and raised particular concern about a proposed location on the northern end of Park East Drive that he said would place a turbine less than 900 feet from residents of Tara Lane.

“I know there were major objections raised to the prospect of building a turbine in North Smithfield by residents who were in the proximity due to that low humming noise,” he said. “I’m just not sure that’s something that the people up in the Bookhaven and Tara Lane area would be willing to accept.”

Ward said another location closer to the center of the park would be different because it would be more than 1,500 feet from residential areas but added he’s cautious about considering a wind turbine anywhere in the city.

D’Agostino agreed with the concerns and said the administration did not request locations for wind turbines from the company.

“I said, ‘I don’t know if there’s an appetite for wind turbines.’ I agree with you, they should not be in residential areas,” he said.

Councilor Roger Jalette said while he’s in total favor of solar panels depending on their location, he will never vote to put a wind turbine in the city of Woonsocket.

The company projects the three turbines would generate $5,035,500 in lease payments and tax revenue for the city over 25 years, according to documents included in the letter to councilors.

While the plans did not include the height of the turbines, a similar proposal in North Smithfield in 2016 featured a 462.5-foot turbine. The company said the turbines would be similar to 19 others it operates around the state, including projects in Johnston and Coventry.