Chill, Rhode Island; Those Wind Turbines Will Spin Soon

You put up three wind turbines with 150-foot-long blades on towers 230 feet tall in view from a nearby interstate highway, and people notice them – and expect to see them spin. That’s a slightly painful discovery made by the Narragansett Bay Commission, in Rhode Island.

Several EarthTechling readers, reacting to a story we posted Feb. 8, have wondered why the turbines at the commission-run Field Point Wastewater Treatment Facility, less than a mile from I-95 at the Port of Providence, remain still lifes instead of whirling dervishes. One reader suggested that if the project had been “a private venture, it would have been generating electricity long ago.”

Narragansett Bay Commission wind turbines

image via Narragansett Bay Commission

Jamie Samons, public affairs manager for the commission, said it’s all a big misunderstanding.

“We happened to put the turbines up when we had a good opportunity, and that was before there was other work that needed to be done to make them functional, but that work always was going to have be done,” Samons said in an interview. “When the turbines were erected we thought they would be operating by the end of August.”

The commission is going to miss that target, but only by a little bit. The turbines are expected to be working in mid-September. A ceremony is being planned for October, on a date to be announced, to celebrate the opening.

“I’ve gotten calls, yes,” Samons said with something between a laugh and a sigh. “It’s great that everyone is so eager, and we’re eager, too, but the delay has actually been very slight.”

Just this Monday the commission reported on its website the arrival for installation of three electrical transformers that “will convert the electricity generated by the wind turbines to a voltage usable at the Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility and during high winds exportable to the local grid.” The commission post said these were “some of the final pieces of equipment needed to make the wind turbines fully operational.”

The three turbines, each 1.5 megawatts, together are expected to offset 40 percent of the wastewater treatment plant’s energy use, saving around $1 million a year. The project cost ratepayers about $12 million.

Samons said that if the commission had to do it again – it won’t, of course – the turbine installation would have come after underground electrical work and a careful grid interconnection study were completed. A lesson for the next public agency that takes on such a project, perhaps.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

  • Native Angeleno

    If enough people in enough places put up wind turbines, there might still be a Rhode Island once global heating hits its peak. Otherwise, it will be under water, not so much in the beginning for the rise in oceans, tho there is that, but for the wild unceasing storms that will make RI uninhabitable. That so few people can grasp that is the real problem here. If there was any leadership, which there isn’t, there would be more of us NOT complaining about these beautiful devices, which with every quiet turn of its blades lessens the destruction of the planet to Jovian storms.

    The cynic’s conclusion the world will be far better off without its human apes is becoming more attractive. The way we’re going, we will get out death wish.

  • Mario

    Well here it is Octo ber 19, 2012 and they are still…. STILL.
    What date are they claiming now?