2009-11-25 / Letters to the Editor

Wind turbine an important decision

Mr. Basso’s letter about the Wind Energy Committee’s presentation last week reveals his doubts about the wisdom of constructing a wind turbine on our island. As members of the committee that sponsored the presentation – and that has now formally recommended construction of a Jamestown wind turbine to the Town Council – we welcome Mr. Basso’s remarks. Certainly there may be some people who oppose the idea of a large wind turbine on Jamestown, and the Press, as well as any future public hearings, is the appropriate place to discuss and debate the issue.

However, we would like to respectfully correct several misleading statements in Mr. Basso’s letter:

• The Nov. 10 workshop was advertised and well attended by around 60 people. Our committee has held open meetings for the past two-and-a-half years, and we have welcomed and solicited input from anyone with any point of view.

• The committee’s recommendation is for a single wind turbine. Our committee categorically rejected all sites that would subject existing residences to “shadow flicker” from a turbine, and this eliminated the vast majority of sites. Our island will never become a wind farm. It is true that we have discussed siting several additional turbines, but we are not recommending that at present – it would depend on future decisionmaking processes.

• It is not necessarily true that property values would be reduced by a wind turbine. Of course some people will consider a turbine to be ugly, but many others might consider it to be handsome. A study in Hull, Mass. showed that the value of properties within sight of their turbine increased, compared to properties from which the turbine could not be seen. A study in Germany showed that drivers on the autobahn prefer rest stops from which turbines can be seen.

• Mr. Basso notes that the amount of power would be small “by power generation standards.” But we would not be trying to generate electricity for all the Northeast, just for the municipal load of our small town. The equivalent of a 440 KW generator running continuously, day and night, 365 days a year, would be a big deal for the town, and would more than supply the electrical load of all the town properties, including the schools, pumping station, town hall, public safety building, sewage plant and other loads.

• Mr. Basso’s figures that average the wind turbine output over the whole of Jamestown’s population are misleading. The turbine we are recommending would be town-owned and would pay for itself through a combination of eliminating town electric bill payments to National Grid (these payments would go towards the bond payments for the project), sales of surplus electricity to the public utility and payments to the town for renewable energy credits (RECs) for the green energy produced. Overall, the wind turbine would be expected to produce a modest income to the town budget, for a total of over $2.2 million over its lifetime.

The study contains an extensive analysis of the economics of wind turbines under different assumptions, carried out by a professional economist. The analysis is conservative and some eventualities (higher electricity prices or longer lifetime of the turbine, etc.) could result in a huge financial bonus for the town.

Time is of the essence in the fight against global climate change. With each passing week and month, the scientific literature demonstrates even greater urgency. There is increasing evidence that, left unchecked, the effects of greenhouse gas emissions will be largely irreversible and potentially abrupt. In light of these warnings from the scientific community, there is a clear need to accelerate emissions reductions through the use of clean, renewable energy.

We in Jamestown would be especially vulnerable to the effects of sea level rise, and it makes sense for us to take action locally to help prevent it. Jamestowners cannot control what the state does offshore, or when, but we can control what happens in our own town. We want Jamestown to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.

The study is not an “if or when” document. It is available online via the town website at www.jamestownri. net/index.html. The study is also available to be read in hard copy at the library and at the town planner’s office.

In conclusion, we would like to thank Mr. Basso for expressing his opinion. Whether or not to build a turbine is an important decision for our town. A turbine would be a large structure that would be highly visible and would be around for at least a couple of decades. We urge everyone in Jamestown to read the study, view the visualizations, think about the economics, consider global warming, and let the Town Council know what they want. This is how democracy works.
William W. Smith III
Don Wineberg
Abigail Anthony, Ph.D.
Michael Larkin

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