A Hummel Report Investigation
Five years in the making, Rhode Island’s largest land-based wind farm is starting to generate electricity - and revenue - for its developer, the town of West Warwick and the Narragansett Bay Commission. Over the summer we have followed the construction of 10 turbines in western Coventry, and one in Portsmouth. Jim Hummel also talks with developer Mark DePasquale about allegations that he was behind 11th-hour legislation in June that would benefit his bottom line - at the expense of ratepayers.
Click here for our previous report on this project.
This is not a job for anybody with a fear of heights.
More than 400 feet up, workers are heading into the homestretch assembling a one and a half megawatt wind turbine in western Coventry. A crane operator on the ground and a supervisor at the top work together to maneuver the blades into place. Each blade weighs nine tons and measures 134 feet. The fit has to be exact.
Last month, this and two other turbines nearby began providing all of the electricity the town of West Warwick will need to power its municipal buildings. The town’s taxpayers last year authorized borrowing $18 million to buy the three turbines.
Wind Energy Development, and its owner Mark DePasquale, is building a 10-turbine wind farm in Coventry. DePasquale also has put up a replacement turbine at the site in Portsmouth where failed equipment sat idle for years. He’ll soon begin selling electricity to the town.
The Narragansett Bay Commission, which in 2012 put up three of its own turbines on the Providence waterfront, has purchased another three in Coventry from Wind Energy Development, putting the Bay Commission well toward its goal of using entirely renewable energy for the agency’s power needs.
We first reported on the Coventry project earlier this year, when the company was laying the foundations for what would eventually be last month’s finished product.
It hasn’t been the smoothest road for DePasquale - he has faced resistance from National Grid and ridden out numerous delays to get to where he is today. And at the end of this year’s General Assembly session he faced allegations he was trying to get special legislation passed tailored specifically to Wind Energy Development. More on that in a moment.
Critics doubted whether DePasquale could succeed at a land-based project this size, the first of its kind and scope in Rhode Island.