2012-08-09 / News

Number of community members discuss turbine during open forum

Time constraints force topic to be moved to next agenda
BY ALEXANDER RAEBURN

The proposed wind turbine at Taylor Point continued to be an issue of contention for Jamestown residents who attended Monday’s Town Council meeting. More than 10 individuals, including proponents, opponents and consultants, gave their opinions on the proposed project.

Blake Dickinson is an opponent of the Taylor Point turbine, though he is in favor of using renewable energy. “It occurs to me as a bystander, or an observer of this process, that there’s two main camps,” he said. Those camps, according to Dickinson, are residents who want a wind turbine “at all costs,” and others who support renewable energy but wonder “at what costs” should a turbine be constructed.

Dickinson said his concerns have caused him to look into the issue of whether or not other municipalities have succeeded in similar ventures, citing specifically the wind turbine in Portsmouth, which has suffered a number of issues since its installation.

“After we buy this thing and we go to pay for it, my question is how’s the town going to pay for a unit that we’re paying twice as much as what Portsmouth paid, relatively speaking, and the unit in Portsmouth can’t pay for itself. So then I would ask anyone in this room, at what cost? And I say, and I’ve said it a 100 times, at the expense of the school and town budget for 20 years.”

Jamestown resident William Smith is a wind-power advocate and said he’s been using windgenerated electricity at his home on Hull Cove Farm Road since 1976.

“Of course there are some risks with any public undertaking,” said Smith, “and there are worst-case scenarios. But the price of electricity has historically always risen and it will continue to do so. Think also of some of the best-case scenarios. Suppose the price of electricity goes up more rapidly than projected. The bond payments will be fixed, so any increase would be pure gravy for the town.”

Jamestown resident George Levesque said that current methods of energy production are one of many reasons to go ahead with the wind turbine. “We have to get off coal,” he said. “It’s as simple as that. If we can’t do it in a community ... like Jamestown, then I worry for everybody. I’m willing to have better health for the generations that are coming along and pay a little bit extra for my energy.”

Karina Lutz, a consultant from People’s Power and Light, a 10-year-old nonprofit energy company in Rhode Island that focuses on affordable and sustainable resources, spoke in favor of the turbine.

“Currently, we have more than 3,000 members who choose to pay a little more for their electricity in order to have it come from renewable resources,” she said. “These are individuals who not only pay to have more electricity come from renewables, but to ensure that as much of that energy as possible is produced locally. The town of Jamestown, for the work it has already performed, has demonstrated that it shares this vision of local renewable-power production. It is also blessed with some of the best land-based wind in the state, which is the most affordable form of renewable energy.”

Lutz went on to say that the town would also benefit financially from the project. “Given the amount of work that is already completed, it would seem imprudent to abandon the project when the town is so close to having all of the information it needs to make a fully informed decision.”

Harley Lee, the town’s consultant on the project, said that when the council met it March, it decided that the project looked good enough to put it out to bid. “That’s really where we are right now,” he said.

The project has been debated and planned for nearly two years. The Town Council did not speak on the subject due to time constraints stemming from lengthy Fort Getty debate, but the subject has been placed on the agenda for the next Town Council meeting scheduled for Monday, Aug. 20.

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