2008-01-17 / News

Request for Qualifications sought for wind turbine study

By Michaela Kennedy

The Jamestown Wind Energy Committee is officially looking for consultants to study possible development of wind energy generation on Conanicut Island. The committee's Request for Qualifications comes on the crest of two regional reports this week that open the doors wider for the state's move toward its sustainable energy use goals.

At its Jan. 15 meeting, the wind committee finalized the RFQ designed to attract alternative energy mentors. The request is slated for advertisement in next Tuesday's Providence Journal. Committee members plan to review applications at next month's meeting on Feb. 12, and conduct interviews later that month.

Town Planner Lisa Bryer noted if anyone requested an application, "it's okay to send it to them."

Earlier this week, the U.S. Minerals Management Service declared that Cape Wind, the nation's first off-shore wind energy project, would have little lasting impact on wildlife, navigation, and tourism. Wind committee members marked the statement to be a significant step toward paving the way for acceptance of local wind energy production efforts.

Also in regional news this week, National Grid, the top energy provider to the state, finally agreed to sign long-term contracts with suppliers of renewable energy.

Committee member William "Bucky" Brennan, with the news item in hand, noted that National Grid was getting pressure to buy renewables, and was objecting. "But there are no details," he commented about the Providence Journal article.

Committee chairman Don Wineberg voiced the opinion that now was a good time to start lobbying for legislation that would favor fair business dealings between local renewable energy generators and energy retail companies. Wineberg suggested working with the consultant on the best approach to policy changes. "At least within the scope of the work, we could work with the consultant on whether it's a good time," he said about a push for new legislation that would protect prices of sustainable energy sold by municipalities.

According to the Renewable Energy Standard, state law requires National Grid to gradually increase the percentage of energy it buys from renewable sources, and gives the Public Utilities Commission the power to pass rules to promote compliance. The mandate says that by 2019, at least 16 percent of the energy consumed in Rhode Island will have to come from renewable energy sources.

Committee member Michael Larkin noted that most regulation for net metering, a method of selling unused generated energy to a retail distributor, was directed toward private suppliers. He suggested a municipal net metering policy should be created. Wineberg agreed, saying, "We should find a way to force National Grid to pay a premium for our green energy. It would be rate-setting legislation."

Pricing should be at fair market value price that would never be less than their vendors. "If the price is lousy, it doesn't help anybody," Wineberg added. Brennan agreed that avoiding cost fluctuations was a key point. Committee member Abigail Anthony volunteered to seek support for the island project from the Rhode Island Energy Efficiency and Resource Management Council. Anthony noted the council had recently hired consultants to research energy management options for the state, and Environment Northeast, the research organization where she works, had a connection with the council. "If communities need certain things, they may be able to help. It's an opportunity we have in Rhode Island," she said.

For more information about the call for a qualified wind consultant, contact the town planner by phone at 423-7210, or by e-mail, lbryer@jamestownri.net.

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