2010-06-03 / News

Local group backs second wind turbine at Ft. Getty spot

By Phil Zahodiakin

A group of local residents recently launched a Website urging town voters to support a proposal for Jamestown to finance and build two wind turbines instead of one.

The name of the Website, “Two Million Green Reasons,” refers to the $2 million in profits that a single wind turbine would produce from the sale of “green” electricity over a 20-year period.

The Town Council has endorsed the construction of a single turbine at Taylor Point – and the town has applied for state and federal subsidies to fund up to $1.25 million of the estimated $4.9 million it would cost to build a turbine there.

On Monday, June 7, town voters will be asked to vote on a budget amendment directing the town to spend $9.6 million on two turbines: One at Taylor Point and a second one at Ft. Getty.

The amendment, also known as a warrant, was registered by Don Wineberg, who chaired the Jamestown Wind Energy Committee.

The committee had advised the council to seek $750,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, and $500,000 in state Renewable Energy Fund grants, for each of two turbines. But the council defeated a motion to apply for a pair of REF and ARRA grants – and then voted unanimously to endorse only a Taylor Point turbine.

Wineberg told the Press that, after the council’s Feb. 16 decision against grant applications in support of two turbines, “the committee members discussed our options [for a second turbine] because we were all frustrated that the decision was made by one vote of the council, which didn’t seem very democratic for such a major initiative.

“I had the sense that we all knew people on the island who supported both turbines,” Wineberg continued, “and someone came up with the idea of amending the budget at the Financial Town Meeting. So, we decided that it would be appropriate to bring the proposal up for a vote at the meeting and let the people decide – and live with the consequences.”

Wineberg noted that the “2millionreasons” group is comprised of every member of the Wind Energy Committee (except for Town Planning Department liaison Lisa Bryer), along with a number of island residents who regularly attended the committee meetings.

Wineberg also said that the windows of opportunity to seek grant money for a second turbine had not necessarily closed.

“There aren’t any guarantees,” he said, “but we have been informed that there is going to be a third round of ARRA funding available. We have also spoken with the governor’s energy advisor and [an official at] the state office of energy resources, and both said they thought there might be more money available for turbine construction.”

Another justification for the warrant, Wineberg said, is that the town would achieve an economy of scale – and save $500,000 – by building two turbines simultaneously. The other major driver, Wineberg added, is the additional $2 million in profits that the second turbine would generate for the town.

Asked if the profit projection for the Ft. Getty turbine includes the cost of upgrading the utility poles along Ft. Getty Road or, alternatively, burying the interconnection cables through the campground and along Ft. Getty Road, Wineberg said, “No. We are leaving it to the town to decide what to do with the profits – but we think [cable burial] would be a good use of town money.”

He also said that “we’re not proposing [a budget amendment for a second turbine] as a way of making a decision about what to do with Ft. Getty in the future. Different people on our committee had their own opinions about future uses of the park, but this is not about that. This is about what’s good for the town.”

Although Wineberg believes that there will be an additional round of REF and ARRA grants available in 2010, Town Council President Michael Schnack views the warrant as “an ill-conceived proposal that would increase our capital budget by 50 percent, without providing any source of revenue to cover the increase.”

Asked if the cost of a Taylor Point turbine – assuming a bond to finance its construction is passed this November – wouldn’t add around $4.9 million to the capital budget by itself, Schnack said, “No, not at all. We would need about three-and-a-half million dollars to build the Taylor Point turbine” if the REF and ARRA subsidies are awarded in full.

“If a bond for that turbine is passed in November, we will decide, at that point, how [the bond debt] will be budgeted,” he said.

In fact, if the REF and ARRA subsidies are not awarded – or if they’re less than the full amounts requested – then the turbine proposed for Taylor Point will be in jeopardy.

“The council won’t proceed with [the Taylor Point turbine proposal] if the numbers aren’t positive,” Schnack warned. “I don’t think we’re in a position to be altruistic just for the sake of ‘green’ energy.”

Jamestown Town Administrator Bruce Keiser agreed that the town should be cautious if the subsidies fall short, telling the Press that “it has not been demonstrated that the Taylor Point wind turbine is financially feasible without the subsidies from one or both of the [state and federal] sources, and, if we don’t receive one or both of the grants, there is a possibility that the bond will not be offered in November. We [meaning the office of Town Administrator] will have to run the numbers once we know what the subsidies actually are, and we will present those numbers to the council for their consideration.”

The Internet address for the “Two Million Green Reasons” site is http://2milliongreen.org.

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