Portsmouth takes up turbine issue Tuesday

An inspector checks out the nacelle of the turbine earlier this month. An inspector checks out the nacelle of the turbine earlier this month.

PORTSMOUTH — The town appears to be close to a solution to its wind turbine problem.

An inspector checks out the nacelle of the turbine earlier this month.

An inspector checks out the nacelle of the turbine earlier this month.

Voters approved a $3 million bond issue in 2007 for the turbine, located at the high school, but it hasn’t spun its blade since June 2012 due to a broken gear box.

At Tuesday night’s Town Council meeting, Council President James Seveney said the panel will host a hearing on the turbine at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, June 3, at Town Hall, after which a decision on the town’s course of action will be made.

The town has been in private negotiations with an as-yet unnamed company in hopes of getting the blades spinning again. The council needs to decide whether the town should borrow money to fix the turbine or take it down.

Town Planner Gary Crosby has said if the town does borrow money to fix the turbine, the operation won’t be the money-maker that it originally set out to be.

Any revenue generated will go toward the hired company’s operations and maintenance and to pay off the debt owed on the turbine. The rest will go into a “self-insurance fund” in case anything else goes wrong with the turbine, he said.

Burn permits questioned

Also at Tuesday night’s meeting — held a day later than usual due to the Memorial Day holiday — resident Albert N. Silvia of 42 Randall Lane requested changes to the town ordinance related to outdoor burnings.

Mr. Silvia said since he and his wife retired and have spent more time at home, they’ve noticed “excessive burning of brush” in town.

“There are many homes in our area that have piles of brush and debris waiting to be burned. It’s like constant smoke coming around our area and it’s very difficult to breathe,” said Mr. Silvia.

He suggested that the town ban all outdoor burning of brush and branches. Residents could take their debris to the town garage where it could be run through a wood-chipper, Mr. Silvia said, and a compost area could be established for leaves and mulch.

“It could be recycled by the townspeople for their gardens and flower beds,” he said.

At the very least, he said, the burnings should be limited to the late fall.

Fire Chief Michael Cranson said residents are allowed to receive a burn permit which is good for a week. “If we do get calls of complaints, under the ordinance we do have the authority to revoke the permit or extinguish it,” Chief Cranson said.

Last year, about 200 burn permits were issued, and the chief guessed that an additional 200 residents are burning illegally every year. “We’re certainly not in the business of driving around town looking for people illegally burning; it’s complaint-driven. We probably get 25 to 30 complaints a year,” he said.

Mr. Seveney said the town should look into the matter further. “Maybe we’re too casual about burn permits,” he said, and suggested that Town Administrator John Klimm meet with Public Works Director Dave Kehew to discuss the issue.

Other action taken

In other business Tuesday night:

• On a suggestion by council member David Gleason, the council voted unanimously to form a committee to study the town’s current fee schedule and also to seek bids for unused town buildings and parcels of land.

• The council met in executive session to discuss two items: a R.I. Department of Environmental Management notice of violation regarding the “Melville dam,” and the Glen Manor House pier. On the second item, the agenda cited a section of state law which allows private discussions when they involved “publicly held property wherein advanced public information would be detrimental to the interest to the public.”

 

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8 Comments

  1. Paul Shaw said:

    Folks, Portsmouth made a catastrophic mistake buying a commercial wind turbine from an inexperienced wind turbine company.
    The Portsmouth EDC & former Town Council failed “Due Diligence ” building the wind turbine.

    Now the Portsmouth Town Council is faced with telling the public the truth about two of the wind turbine contractors that have bid on the wind turbine public private partnership.

    The Request for Proposal is over a year old !

    The executive meeting minutes over the past few months may prove a little embarrassing over who they are selecting for the project and the background and experience of the wind turbine contractors.

    The facts are that Vestas or General Electric will not allow a turbine from their company to be placed near the town water tank, residential homes and school athletic field.

    The Portsmouth Town Council needs to make all the executive minutes over the wind turbine public. Let the public weigh in on the process.

    Members of the former Portsmouth EDC have said in the past where were you when they were making decisions on the wind turbine ? If you hide the information in executive sessions the same thing is going to happen again !

  2. Paul Shaw said:

    If the public is allowed to ask questions here are the questions :

    Why isn’t Portsmouth going to use a wind turbine contractor who is going to use a well known brand wind turbine ?

    How long has the wind turbine contractor that you have selected been in business ? Do they have maintenance problems with their own wind turbine ? Do they have pending litigation against them ?

    Do you feel the setbacks to the town water tank and athletic field is safe ? What about ice throw ?

    Have you notified the residential home owners around the wind turbine ?

    In the last two years have you asked the public for any negative information about wind turbines ?

    Where is the feasibility study and how did you justify “Due Diligence “

  3. Bill Carson said:

    Re Portsmouth:, The message is clear. When there are maintenance costs, they must take precedence from profits; just like any other business operation. :
    “Town Planner Gary Crosby has said if the town does borrow money to fix the turbine, the operation won’t be the money-maker that it originally set out to be. Any revenue generated will go toward the hired company’s operations and maintenance and to pay off the debt owed on the turbine. The rest will go into a “self-insurance fund” in case anything else goes wrong with the turbine, he said.””

    In case anything else goes wrong with the turbine ???????? What if the hired company goes bankrupt like the last one ?

  4. William F Horan said:

    This sounds like additional down side risk larger than the up side opportunity of retiring the present debt. Yes, then add the present site risk e.g. a responsibility for the school roof / students, Rt 24 highway cut & near by homes. Yes, this is a fools gold quest.

  5. T Beal said:

    The current approach seems to be open ended – a money pit. I don’t think anything specific regarding the condition of the unit has been published. The prognosis is that the best outcome possible is that the unit becomes self- sustaining and the contractor is the only one to net a profit.
    Publicly advertise the existing turbine for auction to be removed by the highest bidder.
    The proceeds can be put towards the purchase of a reliable unit from a reputable U.S. company installed in a manner that allows for maintenance without requiring a crane.

  6. Paul Shaw said:

    The two contractors that bid the Portsmouth wind turbine project have very little experience with wind turbines.

    A. One contractor is associated with the company that originally had the maintenance contract on the broken wind turbine and also has problems in Scituate and Hanover. The original company that ran the maintenance of the turbine went into some kind of bankruptcy.

    B. The second wind turbine contractor has litigation over the turbine he owns and the residential homes around the wind turbine. This contractor may also be in some form of financial litigation.

    The new type wind turbine to be proposed is probably going to be from a Chinese company with very few years of experience. The turbine will probably be a 2 Megawatt or larger turbine/

    Because of setbacks to the town water tank and athletic field a well known wind turbine company like GE or Vestas will not build on that site.

    The Portsmouth Town Council is aware of the issues and does not want anyone doing their homework prior to the June 3, 2014 hearing about the wind turbine. If they let you know who the contractor is you would ask too many questions and the Town Council would look foolish

    The bottom line here is the town still has two outstanding loans. The larger over 2 million may have to be repaid at 5 to 7 percent. Now the town wants to borrow more money to rebuild the turbine and then go into a public -private practice ? Portsmouth will go from the frying pan to court if the contractors goes bankrupt or fails to take action

  7. William F Horan said:

    Behind the closed door – is both the state & town tax payers & public utility rate payers being prep ed for a further “donation by force of government”? Yes, in another attempt to bail out the failed Portsmouth Wind Turbine? If yes then the mining of fools gold continues that surely will result in an open ended additional cost obligation.. Yes, today the cost of termination is quantified tomorrow entering into open ended activities in an attempt to attain operational status exposes unquantified finical & technical risk e.g. once again an open ended who knows?

  8. William F Horan said:

    The Portsmouth Industrial Wind Turbine Generator has additional issues beyond the now well documented gear box reliability. We recall conversations concerning the fact that the IWTG design & implementation does not reflect a standard Industry certified type accepted design. For example one of many issues along the path of early discussion was that on board automated management control system having several functions (sensors hardware, firmware & software) not integrated & activated as compared to that vendors and or other IWT Generators of that same design generation. Over the advertised 20 year operational life can one even characterize what costly operational & life cycle maintenance requiring a predictable supply chain? Yes, issues will materialize in this one of design? Further more a high likelihood of shorting the IWTG useful life. Again resulting in an open ended venture lacking a quantifiable – predictable economic outcome. Yes, still an open ended finical exposure.

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