2010-03-11 / Letters to the Editor

Let’s not regret missed opportunity

I am greatly disappointed that the Town Council recently decided to reject the two turbine recommendations of the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee by rejecting the Ft. Getty site for a wind turbine.

One stated objection to Ft. Getty as a turbine site was the possible conflict with the future results of a hastily proposed new Ft. Getty Master Plan. Such master plans have come and gone for decades. Nothing ever comes of them, and, if it did, it would largely recommend some form of leisure based activity, which would primarily be around 12 summer weeks’ use a year. A wind turbine at that site has no effect on any current or future activity there, and its land footprint is about the same as that of a family car!

Another stated reason was “taking on too much debt.” The financial models, as I understand them, predicted a surplus, or profit for the town. Of course, if the wind suddenly stopped blowing, then yes – we’d have a problem, but should that happen, I’d think, climatically, we’d be in deep distress. Secondly, these turbines have a residual value at any given point: If it didn’t work for us, you could dismantle it and sell it. I’m sure there would be many interested buyers worldwide.

While many opponents to windmills on Jamestown really have aesthetics at the core of their argument, we should note that in the future, we could be looking at wind turbines in Narragansett, so our “sky view” in the future is likely to include the vista of a windmill at several points on the horizon.

Roughly two years ago, when the Wind Energy Committee was formed, the world was experiencing the early stages of a spike in oil prices, which peaked at around $140 per barrel. While the recession caused it to collapse to $37 or so, in the last year, it has doubled from that low to around $75 to $80 a barrel. With respect to oil prices, please don’t have short memories. There are 13 million new cars currently being added in China annually – not replacing wornout cars, as our market is. India is projected to go from 6.2 million vehicles in 2005 to 41.5 million in 2025. World oil demand will continue to rise.

Low oil prices go hand in hand with stability and in today’s world, how likely is that to remain going forward, especially in oil-producing regions? It does not take an economist to realize that oil, and energy prices in general, have no place to go but up going forward, probably way higher than the conservative forecasts used in the Wind Committee’s modeling.

We are lucky enough to have a chance, by virtue of being further ahead in the feasibility studies than most other communities in the state, to – in effect – secure electrical energy independence for our community at less than the typical initial expense. To miss this rare opportunity now may be something we regret in the future.
Alan Baines

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