Now that the Middletown Town Council has adopted the amendments to its Wind Turbine ordinance (that basically reflect the provisions of the Comprehensive Plan applicable to wind turbines), the question becomes "where do we go from here"?
The public's participation in the Town Council's discussions on those amendments showed a large majority of citizens are determined to protect Middletown's irreplaceable scenic and historic vistas, and the Town Council concurred. Much of that public interest was sparked by the application filed by Mrs. Luise Strauss with the town's Zoning Board to erect a nearly 294-foot tall one megawatt privately-owned wind turbine on her small "sheep farm" in a residential area abutting St. George's School. This application showed very clearly the need to amend the Wind Turbine Ordinance in order to protect our priceless scenic heritage from wind turbine proposals that would "dominate" the scenic views from our most prominent public vantage points, such as Second Beach, Third Beach, Hanging Rock, and Sachuest Point. Fortunately, at least for now, this application has been withdrawn.
Still, the question remains: Where do we go from here?
I think it is vitally important that we try to find a way to unite both sides of this wind turbine issue. It is clearly in the interests of all our Middletown residents to find a way to save tax dollars, and we all support using "greener" renewable energy whenever it makes good sense.
One way is to build and operate a town-owned wind turbine similar to Portsmouth's. The only real issue is WHERE? I think both sides should now unite to find a site for the town's wind turbine that will allow us to realize the potential profits for the town and still protect our most scenic treasures.
The proposed East Bay Energy Consortium may be the right solution for everyone. The Newport Daily News (Tuesday, Sept 28) reported that the East Bay Energy Consortium had just been awarded a $335,000 grant from the state Economic Development Corporation that will take the project from Phase 2 to the pre-development phase is very encouraging. They are making real progress toward making this "wind farm" in Tiverton's industrial park a reality that every town in the consortium can use for a 2.5 MW wind turbine, of the 3.5 MW allowed by state law for each municipality to generate annually. This site is NOT in a residential zone, and it is NOT in the middle of scenic coastal views or historic areas.
At the same time, we should be exploring other suitable sites that both sides of this debate can support, ones that do not "dominate" the views of our scenic and historic landmarks. Surely there must be somewhere in Middletown that would work for everyone, or even outside of Middletown since electricity can be generated anywhere "on the grid" for the same amount of profit. Such a site can be used in case the Tiverton site does not work out, or for a supplemental town-owned wind turbine to generate the other one megawatt we are allowed by state law.
The ONLY real issue is location. The clear majority of town residents want to make sure we protect Middletown's scenic and historic treasures from large industrial-size wind turbines which would dominate the public's views. Still, this battle doesn't need to be "all or nothing."
It CAN be a WIN-WIN for both sides. Whether it is located in Tiverton or somewhere else, we just need to find the right place for Middletown's wind turbine.