Frequently Asked Questions

We work with Rhode Island communities and public entities to plan and construct wind turbines, which deliver clean, reliable and inexpensive power. Our aim is to help Rhode Island in transforming and diversifying its energy portfolio in coming years.

Wind Energy General Questions

How does wind energy work?

Wind turbines are very simple machines. They work only when the wind blows past the rotor blades, which cause them to turn. The blades turn because of lift, similar to the way a kite flies. A spin of the rotor blades turns a generator which produces electricity. Some wind turbines use a permanent magnet generator rather than a traditional gearbox generator. Note that a wind turbine cannot turn on its own. It has no power source of its own and is not a motor. It only turns when it is windy enough, which is not all of the time. They use no fuel and produce no emissions. They are one of the best available technologies to become energy independent and reduce pollution.

What wind turbines exist in RI?

The total on-shore wind capacity installed in Rhode Island is 22.6 MW as of 2016. These include the following turbines:

Project Owner Location # of turbines Project Capacity Height Year Installed
Portsmouth Abbey Portsmouth 1 660 kW 240 ft. 2006
Aquidneck Corporate Park Middletown 1 100 kW 157 ft. 2009
New England Tech Warwick 1 100 kW 157 ft. 2009
RI Department of Environmental Management Narragansett 1 100 kW 157 ft. 2011
Hodges Badge Portsmouth 1 250 kW 158 ft. 2011
Shalom Housing, Inc. Warwick 1 100 kW 157 ft. 2011
Narragansett Bay Commission Providence 3 4,500 kW 365 ft. 2012
Church Community Housing Tiverton 1 275 kW 231 ft. 2012
Wind Energy Development North Kingstown 1 1,500 kW 413 ft. 2012
Wind Energy Development Coventry 1 1,500 kW 413 ft. 2016
West Warwick Coventry 3 4,500 kW 413 ft. 2016
Narragansett Bay Commission Coventry 1 1,500 kW 413 ft. 2016
Narragansett Bay Commission Coventry 1 1,500 kW 413 ft. 2016
Wind Energy Development Coventry 3 4,500 kW 413 ft. 2016
Wind Energy Development Portsmouth 1 1,500 kW 413 ft. 2016

What are the benefits of wind energy?

Wind energy is a source of clean, non-polluting, electricity. Unlike conventional power plants, wind plants emit no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. Learn more about wind energy on our Clean Energy Benefits page.

Turbine Impacts

How much noise do turbines make?

Noise from wind turbines has been one of the most studied impacts of the technology. Wind turbines produce two types of noise: mechanical noise from the gearbox and aerodynamic noise from the blades and cooling system. Because the VENSYS turbine technology is gearless, the only audible sound is the swooshing of the turbine blades and hum of the cooling fans. The sound of the turbine can only be heard when the turbine is operating and a lot of the noise is masked by the sound of the wind blowing through the trees. Noise maps are generated for each wind turbine based on the technology and site specific characteristics. The wind turbines we develop are sited to meet local noise ordinances.

Source: Knopper LD, CA Ollson, LC McCallum, Whitfield Aslund ML, RG Berger, K Souweine, and M McDaniel. 2014. “Wind turbines and human health”. Frontiers in Public Health. 2.

What is shadow flicker and how can its impact be minimized?

Shadow flicker is a phenomenon that occurs when the sun is low in the sky, the turbine is located between the sun and a occupied structure and the turbine is oriented facing the sun or the building and the blades are spinning. When the sun shines through the rotating blades it creates a temporary absence of light each time the blade shadow passes the window inside the Flicker can be a nuisance for residences in close proximity to the wind turbine if a turbine is not sited properly but it is extremely easy to predict. A flicker analysis is conducted for every wind turbine to ensure that excessive shadow flicker will not occur. The internationally acceptable amount of shadow flicker is no more than 30 hours per year or 30 minutes per day in an occupied structure.

Is “Wind Turbine Syndrome” real?

Researchers have found that the issues associated with “Wind Turbine Syndrome” are most commonly caused by everyday problems, such as stress and anxiety. There is not enough evidence to show that there is a correlation between wind turbines and sickness/sleeplessness in humans who live in close proximity to the project.

(McCunney, R. J., Mundt, K. A., Colby, W. D., Dobie, R., Kaliski, K., & Blais, M. (January 01, 2014). Wind turbines and health: a critical review of the scientific literature. Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine / American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 56, 11, 108-30.)

How do turbines affect property values?

There is not enough proof to demonstrate that property values around wind turbines decline. A University of Rhode Island study was commissioned to study this in detail and found: “across a wide variety of specifications, the results indicate that wind turbines have no statistically significant impact on house prices. For houses within a half mile of a turbine, the point estimate of price change for properties within ½ mile relative to properties 3-5 miles away 4 is -0.2%. So our best estimate is wind towers have no virtually effect on prices of nearby properties.”

(Lang, C., Opaluch, J. J., & Sfinarolakis, G. (July 01, 2014). The windy city: Property value impacts of wind turbines in an urban setting. Energy Economics, 44, 4, 41.; Hoen, B., Brown, J. P., Jackson, T., Thayer, M. A., Wiser, R., & Cappers, P. (July 15, 2015). Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of US Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values. The Journal of Real Estate Finance and Economics, 51,1, 22-51.)

What effects do turbines have on wildlife?

Although wind turbines may hypothetically represent a risk to birds and bats, these figures are nothing compared to the amount of birds and bats killed due to domestic and feral cats, buildings, and power lines. WED works to reduce any potential threat to wildlife through our innovative regrowth projects, which aim to rehabilitate local ecosystems and maintain wildlife. Additionally, wind energy has the smallest amount of avian fatalities compared with other methods of energy production, including nuclear energy plants and fossil-fuel powered plants.

wildlife-impact

(Smallwood, K. Shawn. 2013. “Comparing bird and bat fatality-rate estimates among North American wind-energy projects”. Wildlife Society Bulletin. 37 (1): 19-33.; Loss, Scott R, Tom Will, and Peter P Marra. 2012. “Direct human-caused mortality of birds: improving quantification of magnitude and assessment of population impact”. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 10 (7): 357-364.; Wang, Shifeng, Sicong Wang, and Pete Smith. 2015. “Ecological impacts of wind farms on birds/ Questions, hypotheses, and research needs”. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews. 44/ 599-607.; Benjamin K. Sovacool, “Contextualizing Avian Mortality- A Preliminary Appraisal of Bird and Bat Fatalities from Wind, Fossil-Fuel, and Nuclear Electricity,” Energy Policy 37(6) (June, 2009), pp. 2241-2248)

Don't turbines only work on wind farms in Texas and California?

No.  The viability of a wind turbine is based on two factors. The available wind speed and the cost of power. Although the available wind speed in Rhode Island is lower than in other states WED utilizes a technology that is designed to operate in these wind speeds. Furthermore Rhode Island has very high electricity prices so turbines can operate less efficiently and still save cities and towns money.

Don’t turbines break? What’s the difference between the turbines WED installs and other turbines?

WED utilizes turbines manufactured by VENSYS, a German manufacturer. The technology is a direct drive which utilizes a permanent magnet rather than a traditional gearbox to make electricity. Gearboxes are the most common point of failure in wind turbines and create the most noise. A gearless VENSYS wind turbine in the 1.5 MW class contains very few components and requires only 2 liters of motor oil. The turbine produces more electricity because it is available to run 99% of the time due to less wear and tear on components and fewer breakdowns. With more than 11,000 turbines installed it is the world market leader for large wind turbines. Examples of similar wind turbine technology can be seen at the Narragansett Bay Commission site in Providence and in North Kingstown at the home of WED’s founder/CEO. Additional information on the technology can be found on our Technologies page.

Energy Policy in Rhode Island

What is energy security and how do wind turbines contribute to energy security?

The IEA defines energy security as the uninterrupted availability of energy sources at an affordable price. Energy security has many aspects: long-term energy security mainly deals with timely investments to supply energy in line with economic developments and environmental needs. On the other hand, short-term energy security focuses on the ability of the energy system to react promptly to sudden changes in the supply-demand balance. For more information visit http://www.iea.org/topics/energysecurity/

What Policies Support Energy in Rhode Island?

RI has numerous programs which promote and support the expansion of renewable energy in the state.  At the state level there is a Renewable Energy Standard, the Renewable Energy Growth Program, net metering, and an Executive Order from the Governor.

What is a renewable energy standard?

A renewable energy standard (RES) is a policy that requires and outlines the expansion of renewable resources at the state level. This includes wind, solar, geothermal, hydroelectric, biomass, landfill gas, wave energy, ocean thermal, and anaerobic digestion energy sources. In the most recent legislative session the legislature voted to expand the existing RES which would have had 14.5% of RI’s power come from clean energy by 2019 to an astounding new level of 40% by 2035.

Sources: http://nawindpower.com/r-i-legislature-passes-bill-to-boost-renewable-energy-targethttp://www.awea.org/MediaCenter/pressreleasev2.aspx?ItemNumber=9004)

What is the Renewable Energy Growth (REG) Program?

The REG Program is a performance-based incentive program administered by National Grid and supervised by the Public Utility Commission (PUC) whereby an owner of a renewable energy project can enroll sell power to National Grid at a fixed rate for 20 years through a tariff. The aim of the program is to promote the installation of grid connected renewable energy at reasonable costs. The program is designed to help finance the development, construction, and operation of renewable energy distributed generation projects through tariff-based incentives. Visit the official website here: http://energy.gov/savings/renewable-energy-growth-program

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering is a practice whereby the utility acts as a virtual bank for turbine owners. At times when a turbine is producing more power than is needed, the energy gets fed into the grid and the turbine owner gets credits to use at a later time. The electric grid acts like a battery and the turbine owner’s meter can spin forward and backward. This allows customers to offset the cost of power drawn from the utility and helps reduce the strain on distribution systems.

What is “Remote” or “Virtual” Net Metering?

Remote net metering is an expansion of net metering that allows customers to net meter from sites that are located away from their existing facilities. For example, the Town of West Warwick purchased three of the wind turbines built in Coventry, RI. The Town of West Warwick is able to offset their electricity needs through net metering even though the turbines are located elsewhere.

How is Governor Raimondo and the Rhode Island legislature helping to support wind energy initiatives?

Governor Raimondo was a part of the Governors’ Accord for a New Energy Future, a bipartisan effort to support clean energy across a number of states. Raimondo also issued a Lead by Example executive order in December 2015, which pledged that Rhode Island would use 100 percent renewable power in state government by 2025 and reduce energy use in the state by 10 percent by the end of 2019. Rhode Island also recently developed the RI Green Bank and the Efficient Buildings Fund. These new entities help municipalities improve their energy efficiency and work with its partners to help modernize the electrical grid, create jobs, improve system reliability, and reduce environmental impacts. Additionally, RI is a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, which works to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from generation of electricity by more than 40 percent by 2020. (http://www.ri.gov/press/view/26861)