2012-04-12 / Letters to the Editor

Too many problems to approve turbine

The latest cost projections presented at a recent Town Council meeting still leave me baffled as to why the council seems to be heading toward approval of the wind turbine, even to the point of generating a request for proposal.

Enough information exists to make an informed decision. Does the benefit of a Jamestown turbine warrant the cost and the risk? I think not.

I ask the zoning and conservation panels to maintain the aesthetic standards that Jamestown is blessed with and to reject the required variance. Proceeding will cause us to have to live with a huge wind turbine. We will be able to see and hear it as we travel along our eastern shore, from the Newport Bridge, and from many other places in Jamestown. We did not move to Jamestown to view an industrial monster close to 400 feet high with turbine blades that are 300 feet in diameter.

When we moved to Jamestown nearly 10 years ago, we could have paid a lot less to live in another location that would that would have allowed us to view some truly awesome electrical facilities that were already in place!

Why are we doing this? To generate only 400 kilowatts of power continuously on average, far less than 1/1000th of what a large power station produces. Don’t be misled by the generating capacity of the turbine that is 2 megawatts. There is not enough wind on average to generate this amount of electricity continuously. Wind turbines generate only as much power as there is wind available to propel them. This is an important difference when compared with conventional electrical power sources such as gas turbines or nuclear power stations that will generate up to 1000 megawatts of electricity continuously and on demand.

We would earn $20,000 to $60,000 per year if the projections of the latest study, which has not been subjected to a peer review, are accurate. This is a small return when compared to the $5 million investment required.

Even these low profits are dependent on factors like unquantifi ed value engineering savings that vary in estimates from $170,000 to $500,000. What about costs that are not included? Have firm prices been included on what it will cost to obtain liability and loss of use insurance over a 20-year period as problems unfold in the future in the turbine industry? How will we ensure that the design of the turbine is not flawed and that there is recourse? Some turbine manufacturers have already failed and others will fail. Will the manufacturers guarantee spare parts and service availability locally for 20 years? How valuable will their guarantee be anyway if they are bankrupt or if international conflicts interfere with commerce? What does the removal of the turbine and associated equipment really cost? Will the turbine and the site be designed and tested to withstand Category 5 hurricanes? If the turbine becomes nonoperational, will Jamestown taxpayers have to repay the loan? I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

Electrical equipment like wind turbines are extremely complex. Utility companies have experienced staffs to undertake associated problems. Understandably, small communities do not. It is just bad business for Jamestown to spend borrowed money to start up a business that they know little about and will return only between $20,000 to $60,000 per year.

Perhaps the most important issue is the visual and audible impact the proposed turbine will have on Jamestown. Such a large piece of machinery has no place in Jamestown and must not be permitted.

I don’t think further analysis will change the conclusions stated above. I ask the Town Council and the Zoning Board not to approve the project now.

My comments arise from both being a concerned resident of Jamestown and based on decades of experience with companies providing heavy electrical equipment and instrumentation systems to the utility industry.

Fred Basso
America Way
Jamestown

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