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A Hummel Report Investigation

Winds of Change

Wind energy projects have had mixed results in Rhode Island over the past decade - with a lot of discussion about whether they can be a successful and affordable source of power for the future. This week we begin the first of a two-part series - with a look at one community investing $18 million in three turbines, hoping to stabilize its energy costs for the next several decades.

Watch our earlier reports on wind turbines in Rhode Island, A Lot of Wind (1-13-2011), and New Metering (1-20-2011).

SCRIPT

Wind energy projects have had mixed results in Rhode Island over the past decade, with these turbines on the Providence waterfront an example of how it can be done successfully. This week, we begin a two-part series - as we take a look at one community that’s invested $18 million to stabilize its energy costs over the next couple of decades.
In a remote section of Western Coventry the foundations for 10 wind turbines are taking shape. This one, and two others just down the road, are projected to produce enough electricity to save the town of West Warwick, and its taxpayers, $40 million over the next 25 years.
Presley: ``We’ll be the first town in the state of Rhode Island, I believe the first town in New England, because I don’t know of another that would have 100 percent renewable electricity.’’
Town Manager Fred Presley said he began looking into renewable energy a couple of years ago. After all, West Warwick spends nearly one and a half million dollars annually to power all of its municipal buildings, schools and waste water treatment plant - which uses huge amounts of electricity.
With the help a consultant the town put out a detailed request for proposal for a wind project.
Presley: ``We expected to get answers back saying: either yes you can do this, or not any answers. What we didn’t expect to get an answer back saying: yes you can do this, and by the way they’re already sited. That was kind of icing on the cake :08
They didn’t know at the time that Mark DePasquale, a North Kingstown developer who founded Wind Energy Development in late 2009, had already received approval from the town of Coventry to build 10 turbines, two on town land, and eight on leased parcels of private landowners. That put West Warwick’s plans on a much faster track.
After a series of public meetings, 80 percent of the voters last year approved borrowing $18 million to pay for three turbines in western Coventry, which the town will own outright. Presley said it was a pretty straightforward pitch:
Presley: ``For a town that’s in a distressed economic state just to have the ability to say: I can tell you what I’m going to pay next year on electric and I can tell you what I’m going to pay in 25 years on electric with a high level of confidence. You can’t do that. You can’t tell me what you’re going to pay next month on your house and then what you’re going to pay in 25 years on that same house.’’

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