Wind energy efforts stall in Tiverton

December 14, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Clean energy is facing some serious headwinds in town.

Tiverton’s only wind turbine is face-down in a hay field, and a proposal to set up a wind farm has stalled.

“Not a thing is happening right now,” said Garry Plunkett, the town’s expert on wind power. “It is pretty dead.”

This came after a decade of hope that East Bay communities could harvest the wind for profit.

Plunkett was the town’s representative on the East Bay Energy Consortium, a group of eight East Bay municipalities that hoped to band together to start a wind farm.

Studies have shown that the ridges that run along Route 24 on land owned by the town’s two water districts would be the best spot in the East Bay to locate a wind farm. A study by EBEC revealed that the site has consistent wind. Electricity generated by the turbines could be plugged into the grid at the electrical switching station next to Tiverton Power, a gas-fired power plant in the Tiverton Industrial Park.

Plans to locate three turbines, which would generate about 24 megawatts of electricity, fell apart after legislation to allow borrowing for the project died in the General Assembly in 2012.

Since then, EBEC has been dormant, Plunkett said.

To make matters worse, the wind turbine at Sandywoods Farm is not working. It was built so the turbine could be lowered to allow for repairs.

The turbine has been prone for two weeks. Repairs are underway, but no date has been set for the turbine to be hoisted upright again, according to Sandywoods officials.

There is a proposal for Tiverton’s two fire districts, North Tiverton and Stonebridge, to erect turbines on land they own next to the Industrial Park. Despite their names, the fire districts provide town water to residents in the north end of the city.

But there is a moratorium on development of renewable energy in town until an ordinance is passed by the Town Council to regulate siting and size.

The Planning Commission is scheduled to take up the matter at its meeting on Monday, but the commission plans to discuss only if the ordinance will be limited to wind power, or if solar power will be included, according to Town Planner Kate Michaud.

“The American Planning Association is coming out with their solar standards in January,” Michaud said. “We are hoping to use their research to form our own ordinance.”

A decision on a renewable energy ordinance for the town could be made by summer, town officials said.

When that happens, Tiverton will be in a good position to move forward because it has all of the studies EBEC completed when it was considering a wind farm in the Industrial Park, Plunkett said.

“If the town does move forward, a lot of the groundwork is paid for, in terms of wind analysis and so forth,” he said.

“It will happen eventually. As time goes by, whether it is decades or years, we will see more and more of it.”

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