2007-04-05 / Front Page

Wind energy study now under way

By Dotti Farrington

Town councilors last week held an election and chose by paper ballot seven members for two year terms on the town's new wind energy committee. The seven were chosen from among 16 applicants and one nominated member.

The council invited and urged applicants not named to the committee to attend and play active roles in the committee work.

Selected for the committee were; William "Bucky" Brennan and Robert Bowen, who independently and simultaneously urged the council to pursue study of wind energy, and Clayton Carlisle, William W. Smith III, Don Wineberg, Abigail Anthony and Michael Larkin.

Public Works Director Steven Goslee and Town Engineer Michael Gray will serve as ex-officio members.

The Conservation Commission asked the council to name one of its members, Cathy Roheim, as a non-voting liaison member. Councilors said the position was not part of the committee charge, but she and any interested com- missioner or resident is invited to attend committee meetings and contribute to the study data to be collected.

Councilors said the qualifications and enthusiasm of all applicants were exceptional, and the choices for membership were difficult.

The other applicants were; Mark "Brown" Beezer, Robert Ullrich, Joseph Logan, Chris Kent, Jonathan Shippee, Brian Buck, Robert Rodgers, Rob Braisted and Virginia Perry.

The committee will review and evaluate the use of wind turbines as an alternative renewable energy source for local power generation. They will also study the potential application of wind energy technology to meet municipal demands exclusively or to broadly serve the residential and commercial power needs on the island and examine direct and indirect costs, benefits, aesthetic and neighborhood impacts. The committee will then issue a report and recommendations to the council. The committee may seek federal, state or private grants or funding to support the study and analysis.

Town Clerk Arlene Petit, as requested by the council, coordinated the committee's first meeting for Tuesday, April 3, at which members were scheduled to take the oath of office, choose a chairman, review their assignments, set a meeting schedule and be advised about open meeting law.

State event

The new committee has received an invitation to the April 19 and 20 Conference to Promote Wind Energy, by Lefteris Pavlides, director of Wind Power Rhode Island Project. The conference, at Roger Williams University, will be for leaders, government officials and experts on wind energy, and will focus on a Rhode Island goal of generating 15-percent of the state's electricity within five years. Results also will be featured from the yearlong study, RIWINDS, by Applied Technology & Management of Newport.

Limited seating will be available for most sessions. The public is invited to participate through a live web cast by logging on to mms://streamer.rwu.edu/rwulive during conference times.

Local initiates

Bowen and Brennan reported last fall about their work with two unofficial groups of citizens who have been working independently for several months on gathering data about wind energy, spurred in part by reports of success of a wind device at the Portsmouth Abbey.

Bowen and his colleagues focused on an installation, of possibly only one device, to create energy mainly for municipal buildings. Brennan reported work to develop data for harnessing of wind energy for wider uses, probably on a statewide basis. He talked about installation of two or more devices. He suggested that the energy generated could be sold by the town and profits used to offset municipal energy and other costs.

The Bowen group included Beezer, John Collins, Michael Swistak, and Dennis and Mary Webster. The Brennan group included Wineberg, Carlisle, Peter Shutt and Alan Baines.

The council acknowledged at that time the need to learn more about aesthetic and practical aspects of wind power. Possible sites considered at the time were town owned parcels at Taylor Point and Fort Getty.

Wind power elsewhere

Several Rhode Island communities are considering wind energy options. They include Barrington, Bristol, Portsmouth, Warren, South Kingstown, and Westerly. Interest in Jamestown and elsewhere has increased greatly since Portsmouth Abbey installed the first large wind turbine in Rhode Island last summer.

State grants of up to $25,000 and requiring a local contribution of $5,000 are available to develop wind-power studies or operations. Gov. Donald Carcieri, in early 2006, issued a formal alternative energy policy statement, appointed a commission to identify possible locations for wind turbines, and made provisions to start providing state grants for wind energy efforts.

Newport Harbor Corporation, the parent company of several hospitality businesses in Newport, announced in February that it has converted electrical needs at all of its hotel, restaurant, corporate, real estate and event spaces to wind power through Sterling Planet at an annual cost of $333,876. The conversion represents the first private company in the state to be certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Green Power Partnership program at the leadership level.

Wind energy is reported to be the world's fastest growing energy source, and has been described as a clean and renewable source of energy.

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