KINGSTON – A new wind turbine developer proposes to build a new, quieter machine to take the place of Kingston’s controversial Independence wind turbine.
However, some doubt the quiet part.
Green Development, LLC of Rhode Island proposes to remove the Independence at no cost to the town and help the town establish a decommissioning fund for future removal. The Independence developer, Kingston Wind Independence, failed to deliver on a bond.
The Independence wind turbine may soon be in Kingston’s past.
In turn, the town would support the transfer of the existing land lease and power purchase agreement to Green Development, extend the power purchase agreement by an additional 10 years and sign off on demolition and building permits.
Green Energy Committee Chairman Mark Beaton visited the neighborhood where Green Development owner and founder Mark DePasquale lives under his company’s wind turbine, the first turbine built in Rhode Island, on the North Kingstown Green.
The proposed 1.5-megawatt turbine is made by Vensys, a German company with its North American headquarters in North Kingstown is described as being “one of the most installed machines on Earth.”
DePasquale, director of business development Hannah Morini and other company officials along with legal counsel met with the Green Energy Committee April 15 to present their plans. They say that Kingston will benefit from working with a more experience renewal energy partner.
“That means that we have full capacity to manage projects properly,” Morini said, including the available of the company’s own operations and maintenance staff to respond as needed.
The new turbine would be approximately the same height as the Independence and similar to one in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. Denise Wilkey lives 1,100 feet away from that turbine and disputed the company’s claims about the project in regards to sound levels not exceeding 54 decibels and shadow flicker.
“Everything they say about the negative impacts is not true,” she said. “I have police reports from the middle of the night where it’s roaring in the upper 60s. It’s horrible, and there’s nothing that they do about it.”
Morini said they went out the same night and it was loud with trees rustling and construction on the road, and it was the same level of noise whether the turbine was on or off.
Prospect Street resident Eric Ferris questioned how the height will help flicker for houses like his that are downgrade from the turbine, from the beginning of November until the end of February.
“From 10:53 in the morning until 3:19 in the afternoon the house is a strobe light,” he said. “We lived through this.”
Morini said they would adhere to whatever standards were in place at the time it was permitted, but moving it might mitigate flicker effect on the homes on the other side of Route 3. She said they would like to meet with those residents about their experience to prepare potential external solutions.
Green Energy Committee member Jeanette Pasquale said she doubts that any landscaping will be helpful, but she asked about the use of technology that automatically moves the blades of the turbine to mitigate flicker. Morini said the technology exists, but they would want to meet with the residents first.
Beaton said while he expects that other committees will discuss health concerns, their job as the Green Energy Committee is to vet Green Development’s decommissioning and construction plans. Calling the Independence a lemon, he questions whether an accurate reading was taken by the police.
Beaton said the Green Energy Committee needs to make a recommendation to the Board of Selectmen, and with the prospect of the town having to pay $800,000 to decommission the turbine, Green Development proposes to remove it as part of a new project that will hopefully work for Kingston.
“Nobody likes change, nobody likes to be imposed upon, and I do hope that the general public, the Board of Health, those stakeholders will do some research on flicker and the turbine noise and educate yourself,” he said.
Prospect Street resident and abutter Olivia Allegrini asked about turning the turbine away from neighborhoods. Beaton said there are limitations on the property, and turning it may not help but didn’t rule it out.
Schofield Road resident Michelle Paradise asked if a project hasn’t worked out and they have walked away from it. The answer was no.
Schofield Road resident Greg Merchant said they have been through this already and don’t need it again with the flicker. He asked about shutting the new Kingston turbine down at times to mitigate flicker. No definitive response was given.
During their presentation, Morini said Green Development was founded in 2009 and has experience installing 19 turbines.
“We are involved every single step of the way,” she said. “We are able to act quickly with a high level of expertise.”
She said by decommissioning the Independence at no cost to the town and funding a decommissioning program, they are removing a hazard and planning ahead just in case. The light on the turbine would be fixed immediately.
“We’re going to fund a decommissioning program for the town so that if anything were to ever happen in the future, that the town has the means to remove an existing turbine that is no longer functioning,” she said.
Morini said the decommissioning cost of another defunct turbine in Ipswich has been estimated at $800,000.
When Beaton asked if there would be a bond in place, Morini said it would be a bond or some type of escrow funding, whichever works best. Beaton said the town is on the hook for the bond in the amount of approximately $800,000 because KWI didn’t pay it.
She said it would take approximately two weeks to dismantle and remove the turbine piece by piece and dispose of it while recycling as much as possible. The new construction process would take approximately two weeks.
She said Green Development has the exclusive rights to purchase the turbine from Kingston Wind Independence.
If the power purchase agreement were to be extended to 30 years, the rate would be 15.8 cents a kilowatt hour as of the end of 2021 with a 3.5 percent escalator or increase each year and a fixed price for the next 20 years with no escalator.
The site lease and tax payment would be $164,911 as of the end of 2021 with a 3.5 percent escalator and fixed another 20 years with no escalator for an estimated $232,622 in income to the town.
Green Energy Committee member Gene Wyatt asked if it could possibly moved further away from the highway if the old foundation isn’t used and was told that could be a possibility. He also asked about battery storage options.
Morini said they are working on some battery projects and would be open to it but it might not happen at the same time.
Wyatt said Kingston has benefitted from being a designated Green Community with funding through grants and utility incentives for building upgrades, and its residents have benefitted from funding for energy conservation projects such as solar panels and ductless mini splits.
The Green Energy Committee voted 4-0 to recommend Green Development’s proposal to the Board of Selectmen.