Building a turbine should be put to another vote
Reading the Press for the past few weeks, visitors to Jamestown would leave the island shaking their heads at the goings-on surrounding the proposed turbine. Here’s a recap of recent events:
• Lowell Thomas put forth an excellent analysis in the Feb. 16 Jamestown Press highlighting the many risks and shaky assumptions regarding the projected financials of the project. He concludes that even a small decrease in the subsidized price of electricity would lead to the town losing as much as $2.7 million.
• The town’s turbine consultant, Harley Lee, responded with a column that did not address the specifics of Mr. Thomas’ risk assessment. The column concluded with Mr. Lee favorably comparing the turbine with the Jamestown Windmill as a “positive symbol” for Jamestown. For the record, what we’re talking about is not a windmill but a monstrous, industrial structure, totally not in keeping with the “rural character” of the island that will greet people as they enter our lovely village from the bridge.
• The Town Council went on a site visit to view the Portsmouth turbine and found that the turbine was not even operating. Further, they learned that the company that supplied it was bankrupt leaving the town without a warranty. This visit should truly highlight the risks of the project that were brought to light so cogently by Mr. Thomas. Projections are one thing; experience is another.
• The state Turnpike and Bridge Authority let it be known that they are opposed to the turbine based on aesthetics including “shadow flicker” which could lead to safety issues due to driver distraction.
• Notwithstanding the above, the Town Council continues to pursue the turbine and is now requesting proposals to build the project. And, all of this is being done prior to the release of the University of Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Siting Partnership’s guidelines.
Perhaps the only reason for continuing down this path is that the voters approved a bond in 2010 by a narrow margin. However, it is unclear that the voters would approve the project again now that there is a greater understanding of the shaky economics of the project and after it sinks in just how this industrial structure makes a mockery of our philosophy of maintaining the “rural character” of our pretty island.
The council should stop this folly as soon as possible or, at least, put the issue to the voters again.