2011-01-13 / Front Page

Council awards funding, turbine studies slated to begin

By Phil Zahodiakin

The Jamestown Town Council last week voted to fund a group of studies whose results will set the stage for a final decision on the long-debated proposal to construct a wind turbine at Taylor Point. The Council passed three separate motions for study expenditures totaling $32,130 during its special meeting on Jan. 6.

The first of the studies is intended to challenge the Federal Aviation Administration finding that the magnetic field generated by a 400-foot-high wind turbine at Taylor Point would interfere with the avionics of aircraft approaching the Air National Guard field at Quonset Point.

In its September determination, the FAA said the height of a Taylor Point turbine could not exceed 202 feet – half the size of the 1.65- megawatt turbine that the Council had endorsed. The councilors responded by withdrawing their support for the ballot question asking Jamestown voters to approve a $6.5-million bond for the project.

Shortly before the Nov. 2 ballot, the Council learned that the FAA ruling could be appealed, but its decision on an appeal languished until last week. The motion to award the FAA appeal to Alteris Renewables for an amount not to exceed $1,680 passed unanimously. Alteris, which will partner with Aviation Systems for the appeal, had submitted the lowest bid by far: the other two bids were $8,625 and $8,850.

Alteris designs and installs a variety of renewable energy systems. Before the vote, Town Administrator Bruce Keiser said, “Alteris has begun discussions with Quonset officials on turbine development in Rhode Island, in general, so they already have a relationship with Quonset. They are most experienced with small turbines, but they are now working on a 1.5- megawatt project in Vermont.”

Keiser said the FAA appeals process could last “a couple of months.” But he said, “We will have some informal discussions [with the FAA] within a few weeks, and I think they will give us an indication of whether or not we can achieve what we want.”

The second motion offered last week proposed to award Alteris a contract to prepare the application necessary for the National Grid to estimate interconnection costs for a Taylor Point turbine – along with any upgrades to the local electrical grid. Alteris was again the low bidder, having submitted a quote of $9,650, with the other two bids being $10,785 and $15,000.

The motion to award the contract to Alteris in an amount not to exceed $9,650 passed by a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Ellen Winsor voting against the motion after questioning the sequence of the studies. Keiser had said that the FAA appeal would allow the town to learn the maximum output of a Taylor Point turbine before filing an application for a National Grid study. Winsor felt that the National Grid application should wait until the results of a wind-turbulence study at the Taylor Point site.

National Grid would charge $2,500 for its interconnection-andupgrade assessment. The study would take about two months, and the money “would buy us two things,” Keiser said. “The first is a cost estimate – plus or minus 25 percent of the probable expenditure. Then, at that point, if the Grid feels a detailed study is necessary, the Grid would perform that study at a cost of $15,000 to $25,000.”

The only bid for a wind-turbulence and wind-velocity study was submitted by Alteris, which quoted a price of $20,800 for three months of sampling and subsequent data analysis. Alteris will perform the study with a Sonic Detection and Ranging System (SODAR), which will use sound waves to measure wind speed, shear and direction every 10 minutes. The motion to grant the contract in an amount not to exceed $20,800 was passed by a 4-1 vote, with Winsor voting against the motion because of her sequence concerns.

Council President Mike Schnack said the SODAR measurements would be drawn from a cone-shaped air column starting 40 meters off the ground and rising to a ceiling of 200 meters. Schnack also noted that the measurements would be taken within the full sweep of hypothetical turbine blades.

However, Winsor questioned whether wintertime measurements would be relevant to wind conditions during the summer. Councilor Bob Bowen said “we won’t need a four-season data set” because it’s expected that the wind will travel through every compass direction at various times during the study – and also because the Alteris data analysis will extrapolate the findings to various times of the year.

Winsor also raised a concern about a nighttime strobe effect from turbine blades spinning across the lights of the Pell Bridge. But Councilor Bill Murphy, who described the effect as “flicker vertigo,” said that, “In all probability, people won’t be affected.”

Jamestown resident Blake Dickinson reiterated several of his previously stated arguments against the logic of the turbine proposed for Taylor Point, but Schnack dismissed the arguments, saying, “You haven’t brought anything new to the table.”

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