2011-12-15 / News

Council selects local turbine consultant


The Town Council this week selected a local consultant, Harley Lee, to perform and manage a group of studies necessary to ascertain the costs and potential profitability of a Jamestown wind turbine. The council also reached a decision on the permit requested for a New Year’s Day plunge.

The council met on Dec. 12. Lee, who is president of Endless Energy, was one of five consultants who responded to town’s request for bids.

Lee’s work will be entirely funded by a state Economic Development Corporation grant in the amount of $111,775, which is all that remains of the original $750,000 in American Recovery and Reinvestment Grant money previously awarded to Jamestown before being withdrawn. (The renewable energy grants were withdrawn from every town that didn’t provide assurances that the money would be spent by March 31, 2012.)

Town Administrator Bruce Keiser noted that the amount of the contract to Lee does not include the cost of a National Grid analysis of the cost to connect a Taylor Point turbine to the North Road power lines – with the cost of the Grid study being potentially as high as $25,000.

Keiser also said that his selection of a consultant for recommendation to the council was particularly difficult because all five respondents were highly qualified. Nevertheless, Keiser recommended Lee because “he has voluntarily assisted us [with the turbine initiative] over the last year and a half and he gave us an aggressive schedule for completing the work.”

Among other things, Lee has performed financial analyses of various turbine options, and he has spoken to manufacturers about turbine availabilities within the height restrictions imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration. He has also reached out to contractors for data on interconnection costs.

Keiser noted that Lee will subcontract some of the work encompassed by the contract. For example, photo simulations of a turbine sited at Taylor Point and a meteorological analysis of the wind energy data that is being gathered at the site with a radar device – called a sodar – which went into operation at the end of May. The device is supposed to keep running through February, but Keiser said, “We’ll be directing Harley to ask the meteorologist if we already have enough data for financial analysis [potentially saving nearly $8,000 in sodar costs].”

Keiser also said that each of the respondents had been informed that they would be disqualified from consideration if they held equity positions in any companies, which could enter into a partnership with the town to build and manage a turbine – although the council is far from deciding on the merits of a partnership. Keiser said that Lee expects to have all the projects completed by March 31.

The motion to award the contract to Lee passed by a 4-1 vote, with Councilor Ellen Winsor voting “no” because she believes that the town should first determine the feasibility of transporting turbine components to the island. Keiser had said that each section of the tower weighs more than 65 tons, which is more weight than the Newport Pell Bridge (and presumably the Jamestown Bridge) could bear. Keiser also said that Lee would look into the feasibility of bringing the turbine to Taylor Point on a barge, adding that all of Lee’s work would halt if Lee determines that bringing in the turbine would be impractical.

The council was unanimous, however, in granting resident Bob Bailey a permit to hold a replacement for the Penguin Plunge, which was the name used by its long-time sponsor, the Special Olympics, before the group decided to hold the annual New Year’s dip in Narragansett. Although Bailey had initially named his event the Polar Plunge, he has since renamed it as the Jamestown First Day Penguin Plunge.

Currently, Bailey is approaching Jamestown businesses about donations to cover the $1,900 tab for a police presence (four officers) at the event. Bailey is also, Keiser said, working with Finance Director

Tina Collins to set up a First Day Fund, which would gather the proceeds (less expenses) from the event in support of community projects.

In other news and business:

• The council agreed to a Conservation Commission request for the town to send a letter urging the Coastal Resources Management Council to address the “ongoing violations” at the Procaccianti Group property on Beavertail Road. The letter will be the town’s second, thereby reinforcing its concerns about the issue.

• Alerted the council that National Grid will remove nearly all of the trees on the western side of Narragansett Avenue from Southwest Avenue to Dutch Harbor. The trees, which were compromised by Hurricane Irene and the October nor’easter, are posing a threat to power lines and raising liability issues for the town. The Grid will start to cut down damaged trees (which are marked with ribbons) after Christmas. Residents who wish to appeal the removal should contact the tree warden by the beginning of next week.

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