Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Tiverton Talks Turbine

One small step for sustainability, one giant leap for…

Time will tell. But kudos to the Tiverton Town Council for kicking off what will only be months, if not years, worth of discussions on how we can harness (profitable) wind power here in town. About 30 people showed up for the workshop held last night to hear Professior Lefteris Pavlides of Roger Williams University give an educational and inspiration presentation entitled, "Wind Power Tiverton".

The Bottom Line: Wind power can be profitable and on equal cost footing with electricity produced in more traditional and carbon-laden ways. What you need is a location with ample (at least 7 meters per second) wind speed and a turbine size of at least 1.5 megawatts. Put that up and your making a profit from the first spin of the 12-ton blades. Even better – your electricity production costs will remain constant for at least 20 years.

Professor Pavlides shared insight from the recent wind power conference at URI where amongst other things, the Governor’s Office released the long-awaited wind power siting study (Note: This is a large file). This is the first step in achieving the Governor’s goal of getting 15% of the state power needs from renewable sources by 2012.

Some interested factoids shared during the Council Workshop presentation:
• The wind power siting study identifies locations both onshore and in coastal waters. If all the coastal water locations were developed, wind power would generate 75% of RI’s energy needs. If just the locations in waters between Little Compton and Middletown were developed, we would hit the statewide goal of 15%.
• Rhode Island exceeds the U.S. EPA’s ozone cap levels. To that end the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that wind power would avert 2,028 asthma attacks in New England each year.
• A Harvard University study found that pollution from Brayton Point Power Plant costs the region $500M a year in unnecessary spending (medical, environmental, etc.)
• Installing and maintaining wind turbines across the state and region means hundreds of new, local jobs.

Of course, concern over initial funding came up. There is more than one way to skin this cat according to Professor Pavlides. Everything from grants to partnering with other RI communities to create economies of scale and "bulk" purchasing power.

Stay tuned, there’s more to come on this. Council President Durfee asked to reach out to other RI communities exploring wind power, as well as connecting with Portsmouth Abbey on lessons learned. For us here in town, the next step – above and beyond thinking about potential sites to conduct feasibility studies with – is to SHOW OUR SUPPORT. Take a moment to drop a note to Council President Louise Durfee or Town Administrator Glen Steckman III and tell them you support wind power in Tiverton.

I’m curious, what are your feelings on wind power in Tiverton or Little Compton? Leave a comment and let’s start a discussion.

3 comments:

Tom Gray said...

Bill,

Thanks for passing this along, and kudos to Professor Pavlides for his efforts to bring wind power to the Ocean State!

Regards,
Thomas O. Gray
American Wind Energy Association
www.awea.org
risingwind.blogspot.com

Nate said...

Hi Bill. Great stuff and great blog. You mention "Put that {1.5 Mw turbine} up and your making a profit from the first spin of the 12-ton blades. Even better – your electricity production costs will remain constant for at least 20 years." Where do you get that info? How could you possibly be making profit immediately? Is the turbine free?

We just managed to get Westport to buy in to a small tower behind town hall at town meeting tonight (hoooooray!). But even with MTC picking up $45k of the $68k cost, it will take us 12-15 years to recoup the cost of the turbine (estimated, of course)! I just don't quite get the statement I referenced above.

www.biodieselnow.com

BILL GERLACH said...

Hey Nate,

Thanks for the question. I appreciate the need for clarity. For me, it's a fine line between too much and too little detail. In essence, those are literal quotes from the professor. Let me address the two specific points:

MAKING A PROFIT
The more appropriate phrase here would be "generating income through the sale of renewable energy credits (RECs)" -- which of course, could be used to pay down the loan the town will have to take to make the initial purchase. As the professor explained, the bigger the turbine and the higher in altitude it is placed, the more energy you are producing. When you do both of these in a location with a consistant wind speed of 7m/s, you're sailing.

Looking in to this more, I stumbled across a recent article in the Providence Business News about new state legislation being debated that would raise the maximum REC level from 75kW to 500kW as well as the size of the wind installation allowed to participate in selling credits (currently capped at a 1 megawatt system). This would allow for parity with neighboring states and create an incentive for more expansive development. Clearly, there are finer points of this I (and the town) need to learn about, but we have to start somewhere.

GUARANTEED COST OF ELECTRICITY PRODUCTION
The professor explained that there are two components to the electricity game -- production and distribution. If you're producing the electricity yourself (through the turbine), your costs are fixed. If you have the turbine placed in the same location as where the energy will be used (what he called a "behind the meter" scenario, as with Portsmouth Abbey), you have zero distribution costs. If your turbine location is elsewhere, you will have to pay National Grid to "distribute" your electricity, thus incurring a charge. This will add to your operating costs OR decrease your "profit" from RECs (depending on how you look at it).

Let me know if this doesn't clear things up for you. Hope I didn't insult you're intelligence on any of this!

Maybe Tom Gray can add something to the discussion here?