2011-09-08 / News

Wind turbine numbers poised for unveiling

BY PHIL ZAHODIAKIN

The financial projections for a Jamestown wind turbine will be unveiled at the Town Council’s Sept. 19 meeting, paving the way for a decision on the financial viability of the island’s proposed windmill. Town Administrator Bruce Keiser told the council, which met on Sept. 6, that it would be possible to reach a final decision on the turbine a month after the numbers are presented.

The projections have been prepared by Alteris Renewables, which has performed other services in support of the town’s long and convoluted journey towards a wind-turbine decision. Council President Mike Schnack reminded anyone who has forgotten that the town is obliged to conclude this journey – one way or the other – because of the town vote approving a bond to pay for a turbine.

Keiser said the “highly technical and complex” projections reflect “a host of variables.” But the analysis will enable the town to determine the profitability of a turbine once the wind data gathered at Taylor Point is plugged into the potential energy output of the two turbines assessed by Alteris: one producing 2 megawatts and the other producing 1.5 megawatts.

As part of the discussion on the wind data, the council agreed to pay for one more month of data gathering by the sodar unit installed at Taylor Point. The council also directed Keiser to apply for a state grant that would allow the sodar unit to continue gathering data for another six months, although Councilor Bob Bowen said there was now enough data for a meteorologist (that the town would retain) to correlate the Taylor Point data with wind-monitoring data from Aquidneck Island.

Yet another source of data is available, Keiser has learned, from the Rhode Island Bridge and Turnpike Authority, which has amassed 43 years worth of Newport Pell Bridge wind data. Keiser added that the authority remains interested in the aesthetics of a Taylor Point windmill.

Consequently, Keiser said, “It will be important for us to have visualizations” of any proposed wind turbine for the authority to review. Bowen said, “We need to be proactive with the visualizations,” and added, “Both of the [two manufacturers willing to sell Jamestown a single turbine] would provide those for us.”

However, even as the town approaches a decision a single, relatively large turbine, Councilor Bill Murphy said Jamestown should think about a group of “three or four” small turbines serving such facilities as the wastewater treatment plant, the schools, and Fort Getty. One resident told the councilors that they should focus on solar energy because the panels are becoming much more cost-effective.

Any discussion on solar energy or smaller turbines will have to wait until the financial analysis of a Taylor Point windmill is finished. And that’s not the only long-awaited decision on the front burner: the other one is a decision on a video recording contract for council meetings.

Although it seemed highly likely that the council would finally decide on its two choices during this week’s meeting, a vote was again postponed. Keiser offered a quick summary of the choices: free recordings provided by Jamestown Record publisher Sav Rebecchi, or a town-owned system using Clerk- Base software for $6,315 a year, along with an initial $18,700 outlay for ART to install such hardware as a pair of cameras. Murphy said that he was still unsure of what the bids would provide.

Bowen, who has stated his strong preference for a town-owned system, said, “I still think this should be a town function.” He suggested inviting ClerkBase and ART to present a summary of their bids in separate council meetings, and then voting on the choices at the council meeting, which follows the last of the two presentations – a scenario that would have protracted the decision process by an additional six weeks.

However, to avoid prolonging this any further, it was decided that the two presentations and a subsequent vote would all take place in a single council meeting.

In other business, the council:

• Selected from three slightly different options the final design of the replacement pavilion at Fort Getty. The selected design has been projected to cost $366,258 (before the council’s request to substitute a metal roof for asphalt shingles). An issue hanging over this expenditure is the decision of the re-insurance company for the town’s insurance carrier to limit its payment for the loss of the Rembijas pavilion to $198,000. Keiser said a meeting on this situation is in the works.

• Agreed to spend $167,734 on a new EMS ambulance, with the Jamestown Emergency Medical Service kicking in the $110,000 it raised from local donations over the last six years.

• Learned from Keiser that Jamestown has been awarded $209,000 from the Rhode Island Community Development Block Grant Program.

• Learned from Keiser that President Obama’s disaster declaration for Rhode Island and its losses from Hurricane Irene should enable the town to recoup 75 percent of its $16,000 in overtime costs for response to the storm.

• Learned that Keiser will be meeting this week with state Department of Transportation Director Michael Lewis in hopes of gaining an endorsement for the town’s proposed bike path. The endorsement would qualify Jamestown for a state grant that will fund a $21,000 engineering study of the plan.

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