Portsmouth residents voice concerns over noise, flicker generated by turbine

PORTSMOUTH — The combination of the noise and shadows generated by the town's wind turbine has rankled some neighbors who voiced their frustration to the Town Council during its meeting Monday.

Mark DePasquale, the founder and chairman of the company that owns the turbine, tried to reassure them with promises to address the bothersome conditions.

David Souza, a lifelong town resident who lives on Lowell Drive, showed videos of the repeated, flashing shadows cast on his home by the three blades spinning.

"I am a firefighter. I need to get my sleep," he said. "And now it's starting to affect my job. I'm tired."

Town Council President Keith Hamilton tasked DePasquale with meeting with the neighbors and returning with an update in a month. "What I do need you to do, Mr. DePasquale, is to follow through with all these people."

DePasquale said he was unaware of the flurry of complaints lodged by the residents Monday. His company had only heard of one complaint. "If I knew there was an issue before tonight, we would have responded," he said.

His company, Green Development LLC, formerly Wind Energy Development LLC, installed the 279-foot-tall turbine near Portsmouth High School that started running in August 2016. It replaced another turbine installed by a separate company that broke down in 2012.

In November 2014, the town signed an agreement with Wind Energy Development to take down the existing turbine, pay off the remaining $1.45 million of the bond the town took out to install it and put up a new turbine.

In exchange, Wind Energy Development sells a portion of the energy generated by the turbine to the town at a rate of 15.5 cents per kilowatt hour for 25 years. Some of the energy generated is sold to the town of Coventry.

"We took down (the old turbine) and paid off the debt," DePasquale said. "I have no problem doing whatever the council wants ... There was an economic decision made to pay off the bond and build something better."

The turbine was on pace to produce 4 million-plus kilowatt hours per year, Michelle Carpenter, the chief operating officer of Wind Energy Development, said last April. It generates enough energy to power all municipal and school buildings in town, she said.

The constant stream of shadows cast on certain homes in the area can last for as long as an hour-and-a-half, according to Souza. "We shouldn't have to put up with this," he said.

Sprague Street resident John Vegas said the turbine's noise, especially in late August, is louder than the neighborhood's ambient noise.

"Throughout the summer, there's almost no flicker, but this time of year it's very prominent," Vegas added. "It can be every day."

He mentioned neighbors needed to be better organized to get results.

"When the residents purchased our properties we did not have this wind turbine in our backyard," Souza said in a memo. "Due to the wind turbine ... our quality of life has suffered."

After the discussion, the council unanimously voted to allow Green Development to sublease excess energy to the Rhode Island Convention Center Authority, a similar agreement to the one the company struck with Coventry.

"This has to be a sustainable solution," DePasquale said. "We will work together with the town on a solution."

Portsmouth Town Council meeting minutes

When: Monday night.

Where: Town Hall, 2200 East Main Road.

Absent: None.

Of note: Heard from members of the Portsmouth High School Student Council, who want to replace the school sign on Turnpike Avenue. The existing sign has a letter board and must be changed manually, and the students want an electric sign. They estimate the sign will cost $31,000 and have raised $12,000 for it.

Received an update from Rail Explorers, the company that takes riders in a pedal-powered vehicle down the six-mile stretch of rail between the Sakonnet River Bridge and Melville. Residents from one household complained of the noise from the carts clanging along the line. Mary Joy Lu, who runs the seasonal business, promised to address their concerns.

Appointed Leonard Katzman to the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission on a 4-3 vote. Councilors David Gleason and Paul Kesson explained their vote against the appointment, saying the council should not appoint members to a private nonprofit organization. Councilor Elizabeth Pedro also voted against the appointment.

Unanimously approved spending $107,000 in town funds from the Prudence Island capital improvement fund for the Mill Creek restoration and coastal resiliency project. The money will satisfy a requirement to receive $433,000 for the project from the state Department of Environmental Management.

Next meeting: Monday, Feb. 26, 7 p.m., Town Hall.


FEB 13 2018
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