Trio of New Providence Waterfront Wind Turbines Receives Key Approvals
October 18, 2019
PROVIDENCE — Three new wind turbines are on track to join the trio already operating along the city’s industrial waterfront.
North Kingstown-based wind and solar developer Green Development LLC recently received approval from the City Council’s Committee on Ordinances to amend the zoning rules for turbine height and a condition known as shadow flicker.
Maps presented by Green Development at the Oct. 16 meeting show three turbines located near the athletic fields at the Johnson & Wales University Harborside Campus at Fields Point. Two of the turbines are sited on Johnson & Wales property, the third on land owned by ProvPort Inc., the city-affiliated nonprofit that runs portions of the waterfront. These new wind turbines are about a half-mile south of the wind turbines at the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) wastewater treatment facility. NBC’s three 1.5-megawatt turbines have been spinning since 2012.
The trio of new turbines also has a combined electric capacity of 4.5 megawatts, and a maximum height of 350 feet above sea level. The NBC turbines stand about 360 feet high. Like the NBC turbines, the proposed Green Development turbines have received approval from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA reviews all tall structures being built near T.F. Green International Airport.
Documents submitted to the city’s Department of Planning and Development show that the proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance allow the height of these and future turbines to be determined by the distance from nearby structures and property boundaries.
Green Development’s petition also rewrites the standards for shadow flicker, a strobe-light effect caused by sunlight shining off spinning turbine blades. The phenomenon is a grievance common among turbine neighbors, some of whom claim to suffer health impacts from the flicker.
The new rule states that shadow flicker “shall not exceed 30 hours per year on any window of an existing residential structure” as long as the structure is not on the same parcel as the turbine. The rule doesn’t apply to commercial structures.
The city’s current regulation prohibits shadow flicker on windows of any existing structure.
Green Development also wants the zoning rules amended so that the city can issue special permits for building wind turbines on property zoned for educational institutions, so long as the parcel abuts an industrial waterfront zone and isn’t within 1,000 feet of an area zoned for residential use. Currently, wind turbines are only allowed in the city’s port/maritime zones.
The ordinance committee approved the requested zoning changes. To take effect, the City Council must pass the petition at two meetings before they are sent to Mayor Jorge Elorza for his signature.
The City Plan Commission also endorsed the proposed zoning changes, saying they clarify the method for determining allowable turbine height. The commission said Green Development’s turbines also conform to environmental and global-warming mitigation goals set by the city’s comprehensive plan.
If approved, construction on the three turbines would likely begin in spring 2020. The turbines would be owned by Green Development, with the company making lease payments to Johnson & Wales and ProvPort. Electricity would be sold to National Grid through its Renewable Energy Growth Program for a 20-year, fixed-price contract of 19.34 cents per kilowatt-hour.