Monday, August 11, 2008

Newport Anti-Wind farm group formed

Oof, this post has been sitting in my drafts for months. Probably not the highest quality, but I don't see me going back and revisiting it any time soon.

Back in December, I posted part 1 of a rebuttal to several opinion pieces by Anthony Spiratos of Newport. I never did post rebuttals to the second and third essays on that expanded on is first article describing the ills of wind turbines and added theories about the motivations behind the governor's plans.

Mr. Spiratos has now formed a group, The Rhode Island Alliance for Clean Energy, to fight the development of offshore wind projects in Rhode Island Sound. It would appear that the website for this new activist group repeats many of the same factually incorrect, out of date, or unsubstantiated claims about wind turbines and continues the critique of the governor's motives, insisting that campaign donations from three Cape Wind developers is behind the drive to develop wind projects in the state. The group intends to raise 5 million dollars in short order to preserve the pristine and untouched sound, though how they will use the funds they raise isn't specified.

Its entertaining to me that he has formed this group to fight something that hasn't been formally proposed yet, though there there is a proposal by AllCo for development off Block Island, it isn't clear if Mr. Spiratos group is opposed to all off shore wind projects, or only those visible from Newport). Meaning, at this point, to the best of my knowledge, no wind generators are proposed for the region off Newport, Middletown and Little Compton. Locations in Rhode Island Sound off Little Compton and Aquidneck Island were high on the list of areas of state waters with good potential wind resources, most attention has been focused on the area southwest of Block Island, and so far as I can tell, that area, in both state and federal waters, is the preferred area for development, in no way threatening the viewshed of Newport residents and visitors.

As before, Mr. Spiratos also claims that offshore wind development would negatively impact fishing, lobstering and tourism industries to the area. So far as I can tell, there is no significant research or evidence of effects on these industries in Europe where offshore wind installations exist and studies have been conducted to examine long term impacts on marine life.

According to the groups web site, they prefer solutions that put power generation on every rooftop, through the use of micro wind turbines, photovoltaics, efficiency improvements (LED lighting) and geothermal. While these are all excellent opportunities to be leveraged, the policy and regulatory climate need to change to better support these initiatives. Given the high cost of installation and the slow return on investment of these technologies, they are out of reach of most RI property owners. So far as I am aware, RI does not offer any sort of tax credits for home owners who implement efficiency improvements or install micro generation facilities.

Spiratos also accused the governor of charging ahead on the wind project in order to have it realized before he leaves office. Realistically, while Governor Carcieri may want to have wind turbines up and running by the end of his term in 2011, it is highly unlikely. Allco, a company that has already expressed interest in developing offshore wind power near Block Island has proposed installing a mast to gather data to ensure that these waters would be practical locations for generating power. It wouldn't be unexpected for that data gathering to take 1 to 2 years after the mast is completed. Given the example of the stalled Cape Wind project, even if the project only occurs in state waters, a long debate and establishment of regulatory guidelines is likely to be in the future of the project.

Some other media coverage can be found in the Providence Journal and The ProJo article is worth a read, as it includes information about the costs and revenues for RI's only wind turbine at Portsmouth Abbey.