2010-12-23 / Letters to the Editor

‘Disappointing’ turbine situation

A wind turbine for the Town of Jamestown is dead. This will make some people happy. But I’m very disappointed.

I’m disappointed because our town had an opportunity to make an impact in controlling some of our own energy independence. I’m disappointed because we were given a chance to not be Nimbys and do something to help the environment.

In spite of all the controversy and negative push back from the Town Council, a majority of Jamestown voters supported a bond to construct a turbine at Taylor Point at the polls in November. After the votes were counted, our town leadership decided to take a micromanagement approach to the project. The problem is that their lack of understanding of complex issues, such as electrical interconnects, FAA permits, large-scale construction and complex financial models, had them wandering down a crooked path to nowhere.

This path had them retain a self-motivated vendor to file premature FAA permits, panicking over the costs of complex electrical interconnects with National Grid, without the aid of an experienced electrical engineer and debating space needs to erect a turbine on a compact site, without the assistance of an experienced project manager.

The feasibility study from the now-dismissed Wind Energy Committee (WEC) debated and addressed all these issues. Electrical interconnect, FAA, state and local permits and construction costs were all accounted for. Perfectly? No. Doable? Yes, by adjusting between budgeted-line items.

With the grants available at the time of the WEC’s feasibility study, this project had net positive cash flow for the town. Without grants the project would not make the kind of profit estimated by the study. As the Town Council floundered and progress stalled long enough to ensure meeting construction deadline to receive the $750,000 federal grant funding, the project became more risky.

The WEC understood all of the consequences and risks when it presented the town the wind turbine option at Fort Getty, but the town chose to ignore their recommendations. Perhaps when fuel oil and gas prices are at $4 or $5 per gallon, electricity is at 18 cents per-kilowatt hour and China and the Middle East oil-rich nations are holding us hostage, we will look back and wish we had done something for the common good.
William Brennan

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