2007-04-12 / News

Committee begins study of wind generated electricity for town

By Michaela Kennedy

The newly appointed Wind Energy Study Committee held its first meeting at the Town Hall on April 3. The seven-member committee appointed officers and reviewed its charge from the Town Council, with direction from Town Clerk Arlene Petit.

The members introduced themselves and their interest in the pursuit of wind energy. William "Bucky" Brennan, who also serves on the School Committee, noted that renewable wind energy generation was a good idea, not just locally, but globally. "It's windy here," said Brennan.

Michael Larkin, a marine scientist who has studied wind energy, agreed. "I feel Jamestown should be taking a lead here and nationally," he said.

Don Wineberg, who also serves as vice chairman of the Zoning Board of Review, was voted in unanimously as chairman of the committee. Brennan pointed out Wineberg's expertise as an attorney and offered the nomination. Wineberg said that Jamestown has the power to lead the state, and maybe the country, in wind energy technology.

Petit suggested appointing a cochairman for the board, "since this is going to be a busy committee." Robert Bowen, a marine and atmospheric chemist at the University of Rhode Island, accepted the co-chairman nomination, followed by Abigail Anthony, a research scientist in Environmental and Resource Economics, who agreed to the position as secretary.

Petit read the charge from the council, which calls for the committee to review and evaluate the use of wind turbines as an alternative renewable energy source. The committee is asked to study the potential application of wind energy technology to meet municipal demands, and possibly serve the residential and commercial power needs on the island. "The study will examine direct and indirect costs and benefits and aesthetic and neighborhood impacts," Petit read. Committee members are expected to serve for an initial term of two years, with the town planner and director of public works sitting as non-voting members.

"It's a hefty charge, and it's going to keep you folks busy," Petit warned. "You're going to have to work hard to keep up with that charge."

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser emphasized the importance of Jamestown representation at a wind power conference at the University of Rhode Island to be held on April 19 and 20. He encouraged other residents, in addition to committee members, to participate. Brennan offered to show a preliminary presentation for the conference at the next meeting.

The committee went on to discuss an action plan for the committee. Anthony suggested laying out major objectives "so we know what it is we are here to do." Board members mentioned grant avenues and a feasibility study to be included in the plan. Bowen noted that a feasibility study would cost about $30,000. "From that you'd learn what we need for the town," he said. The committee might have an opportunity to work with organizations that are already funded, Bowen added.

Town Councilor William Kelly suggested making an inventory of grant possibilities. He offered to assist in the preparation of grant applications. "Many grants require matching funds. It might soften the blow when you ask the council for money," he said.

Kelly also suggested reaching out to interested community members that could help out through subcommittees. "The way to make a project successful is to increase your stakeholders," he commented. The electricity bill for water treatment alone averages between $3,600 and $3,700 per month, Kelly added.

The board agreed that a feasibility study should include ways to fund a major wind energy project, whether it is through private investors expecting a return, or local government funding. "There may come a time when we need legislation," Wineberg noted.

The committee agreed to meet regularly on the second Tuesday of every month, starting on May 8.

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