When the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) visualized creating Rhode Island’s first wind farm in Providence, it put the state one step closer to reaching its long-term goal of producing 20% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The cost of electricity in New England is 15% higher than any other region in the country, and NBC owns the two largest wastewater treatment facilities in Rhode Island. The motivation for the commission to construct three industrial-sized turbines as a renewable energy source for their Field’s Point Wastewater Treatment Facility (WWTF) was the possibility of reducing the facility’s annual electric bills by 40%, but there was no precedent for this type of project in Rhode Island.
The team first collected wind data and completed a four-year feasibility study to determine whether the project was even possible.
Receiving zoning and permitting approvals was an issue, as Rhode Island had few existing guidelines regarding this unique operation. NBC staff also had to negotiate with the Federal Aviation Administration for height variance because the wind field is located in a flight path.
Securing proper funding and gaining support from the public also were challenging, and staff had to work with the local electric utility to resolve concerns regarding interconnection to the power grid to allow for net-metering.
After years of research and planning, contractors finally were able to work through the maze of underground pipes and wires and construct three 365-ft-tall wind turbines on the 22-acre WWTF site, in full compliance with the discharge permit.
The turbines began generating power at a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony at the end of October 2012. The entire project is slated for completion by March 2013.
NBC hopes that one day Field’s Point will become a net-zero facility by producing enough renewable energy to offset the electric costs for its daily wastewater treatment.