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AEP Settlement Helps Fund R.I. Park's Wind Turbine

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The campground at Fisherman's Memorial State Park.

Joining tents and summertime campfires at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park in Narragansett, R.I.,  season will be a 117-foot wind turbine that is expected to generate about half of the power used at the park, the South County Independent reported.

The state Department of Environmental Management (DEM) last week broke ground on the alternative energy project, which will be funded entirely through a multi-state settlement and state grants.

“The whole idea is to build a clean energy installation that is in scale with the park,” said Lisa Lawless, principal civil engineer with DEM. “In terms of scale and size, it is in line with the setting of the park.”

Upon completion, the turbine will be one of the three or four tallest man-made structures in town, joining the town’s two municipal water towers at Point Judith and the North End. The park is located at 1011 Point Judith Road.

The white turbine, which will sit on a monopole, is expected to produce 160,000 kilowatt hours annually. The campground currently uses about 360,000 kilowatt hours per year.

“The electricity uses will vary from the campers themselves to the lighting in the park to the restroom facilities,” said Lawless.

North Power Systems of Barre, Vt., manufactured the 100-kilowatt Northwind 100 model, which is identical to the turbine on the campus at the New England Institute of Technology in Warwick.

A multi-state settlement with American Electric Power Service will cover a large chunk of the tab. The state received $1.2 million – to be administered in five annual installments of $240,000 – as part of a settlement with AEP, which built a number of major electricity generating facilities in the Ohio River valley without the permits required under the Federal Clean Air Act.

AEP paid out $15 million penalties and an additional $60 million to perform or finance environmental mitigation projects. Rhode Island was one of eight states to receive funds through the settlement.

Settlement money also will fund a 10-kilowatt wind turbine at East Matunuck State Beach in South Kingstown.

“The idea was to give the states a certain amount of funding every year in return for a clean energy project,” said Lawless.

The state also will use a $150,000 grant from the R.I. Energy Office that expires in March 2012 and a $137,500 grant from the R.I. Economic Development Corp.

The turbine at Fishermen’s Memorial State Park is the second alternative energy project in as many years for DEM in Narragansett. In July 2010, the state unveiled a 100-foot wind turbine at Salty Brine State Beach in Galilee. Stylistically, the turbine at Salty Brine differs because it is smaller and it sits atop a large metal tower, but the purpose is the same.

Lawless said the turbine at Salty Brine has outperformed DEM expectations. “In nine months, the turbine has generated over 10,000 kilowatt hours,” said Lawless. “We expected it to take an entire year to produce that much energy.”

Looking to harness the power of wind along the Narragansett coast several years ago, DEM looked seriously at installing turbines at Camp Cronin, Black Point and on the southwest side of Galilee Escape Road. The town-owned Scarborough Sewage Treatment Plant on Ocean Road and the public works facility on Westmoreland Street were also potential spots for wind turbines.

Those projects never came to fruition.

Since the project is being completed entirely on state property, it is exempt from a town ordinance that requires any proposed structure taller than 35 feet to be reviewed by the Zoning Board.

“If it were a private developer, it would fall under the town-wide ordinance,” said Michael DeLuca, director of community development. “If it is on state property, then they can fully exercise their right to supercede local regulations.”

The town doesn’t currently have a wind turbine ordinance on the books, said DeLuca.

When the state was seriously eyeing Narragansett as a location for wind energy development, town staff started work on a draft alternative energy ordinance. The ordinance would have served as a framework for expansion if the town decided to look at opportunities in solar and wind power.

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