Letter to the editor: The Facts About the Portsmouth Wind Turbine

The following is a letter to the editor received from Doug Smith, who was a member of the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee involved with the wind turbine process.

The Facts About the Portsmouth Wind Turbine
by Doug Smith

As a member of the Subcommittee that was involved in the Wind Turbine project, I have refrained from responding to the unwarranted implication at the 24 September Town Council meeting, that there were some “mistakes” made by the Portsmouth Economic Development Committee (PEDC) in the planning leading up to the construction of the Wind Turbine in Portsmouth. To do so would lend this politically-motivated accusation credibility. That a subsequent proposal to have the PEDC investigate the decision-making process for “mistakes” was approved by all of our Town Councilors (two of whom are liaison members of the PEDC) was very disturbing. I have resigned from the PEDC because I feel that by accepting this proposal, the Town Council majority is trying to make use of the PEDC for their political gain. I refuse to be a party such manipulation. It seems time to set the record straight.

I believe that no “mistakes” were made by the PEDC during the development process. The fact is that all the steps in the PEDC process were open to the public and all major decisions were brought to the Town Council for their vote. Any major decisions therefore, were made by the Town Council after due discussion and public comments, which included those of the PCC. The process included analyses by respected wind energy consultants who noted no fatal flaws in the process and decisions. The entire process was freely open to public scrutiny and lasted well over two years. In a Town-wide referendum in November 2007, over 60% of Portsmouth voters approved of purchasing the Wind Turbine. A complete description of the process and its timelines, as well as the detailed feasibility study that was completed in 2004, is (and has always been) available on the PEDC website at http://www.portsmouthrienergy.com/windpower.htm

Since it became operational in March 2009, the Wind Turbine has netted over $400,000 in profits to the town after all expenses and loan payments were made. We would not have recommended this project if we didn’t expect to generate a constant flow of positive revenues for the town. Even with major repairs expected, positive revenues to the town are still anticipated in the future. Hindsight is always 20/20 and going back and reevaluating a process that started over 6 years ago is a waste of time. The Town Council and the PCC know this, but the PCC, with their constant flow of negativity about Portsmouth, is trying desperately to score political points prior to the November elections.

It is time that the Town leadership stop posturing for their political base and get on with either repairing or replacing the Wind Turbine gearbox or partnering with a private wind energy developer who might consider taking over its management. While I realize that this is a complex decision and that we need to get it right going forward, the Wind Turbine has sat idle for too long. A primary job of the Town Council is to make decisions, one for which this council has proven to be especially inept. Looking backward serves no purpose other than delaying a decision, something this council has done all too frequently in the past.

Full disclosure: I have been a long-time supporter of alternative energy in general and the Portsmouth WTG in particular and I serve with Doug on the Portsmouth 375 anniversary committee.