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Public-private proposal made to replace broken wind turbine

IPSWICH – A Rhode Island company has told the select board it can replace the broken wind turbine at the end of Town Farm Road.

“Broken turbines are very obviously broken. It’s not something that looks good in town,” Hannah Morini said at Monday’s meeting (March 15). “But most importantly, they are safety hazards,” she added.

Director of business development with Green Development LLC of Cranston, R.I., Morini said her company has 19 operating turbines. The firm generates more than 70 megawatts (MW) in wind and solar projects and plans to increase that to 111 MW in 2021, she said.

The town signed a public-private agreement with Ipswich Wind Independence LLC in 2011 to build Wind II (Wind I is town-owned). The town’s electric light department (ELD) agreed to buy power from the company, and the town also collected around $1.3 million in property tax.

However, a fire in October 2018 knocked Wind II out of action. To complicate matters, there were rumors that Ipswich Wind Independence was in financial difficulties – and the town discovered no bond had been paid to ensure safe removal of the structure.

The turbine was not repairable, as the manufacturer, Hyundai, had withdrawn from the turbine business.

Green Development’s CEO, Mark DePasquale, said his company will assume Ipswich Wind Independence’s contract and remove the old turbine at no cost to Ipswich. The old structure would be replaced with a model manufactured by Vensys. That company is based in Germany but has an American headquarters in Rhode Island, he said.

“They very, very rarely, if ever, break,” Morini said of the Vensys generators.

She said Green Development dealt with a situation similar to Ipswich’s in Portsmouth, R.I. The company plans to “step into the contract” with Ipswich and extend it by three years to 25 years, Morini said. “We own the entitlements for the broken project at this time,” she said.

Green would pay no additional taxes, except for personal property tax, she said. The company would lease the land for $1 a year.

Green Development would sell the power to Ipswich for $0.1185 per kWh at a fixed rate for 25 years, Morini said. There would be two additional five-year renewal options after that, she added. Ipswich customers pay close to 15 cents an hour plus a $4 monthly charge, ELD manager Jon Blair said in an email after the meeting.

“In my opinion it is high, but not unreasonable,” he said of Green Development’s proposed charge. He added that power costs fluctuate depending on their source, time of day and year, and “a variety of other factors.”

A recent example of one severe fluctuation happened in Texas, where wholesale power costs hit “an unbelievable $9/kWh,” Blair noted.

Ipswich has a partially hedged portfolio to protect against market volatility, he said.

The new turbine would be 414 feet tall when the blade is fully upright, and the hub would be 85 meters (almost 279 feet) off the ground. That is about three feet higher than Wind I.

Morini said Green Development is a vertically integrated company, which means it handles all aspects of demolition and construction rather than subcontracting work out. The company would also arrange a bond to pay for removal, DePasquale said.

If approved, the new turbine would be operational by the end of the year, he added.

The town would also get back its “renewal energy credits,” or RECs, related to the turbine.

Asked by selectperson Kerry Mackin if construction could happen sooner, DePasquale replied that he has scheduled three units from Germany later this year. Ipswich could be added to that, he said.

Calling it “an in-kind replacement of an existing resource,” Blair added, “It seems like a technically sound proposal.”

The board made no commitments on Monday and will vote on the plan at a future meeting.