Wind turbines have sprouted up across the state, in many cases due to federal and state grants providing hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover capital costs upfront, all at no cost to the proposer.
The latest turbine to grace the skyline is at Hodges Badge Co., a privately owned firm in Portsmouth. It’s the country’s largest maker of custom ribbons for awards – among many other items – and it regularly incurs high electrical costs. Currently in its fourth generation of family ownership, the company employs 100 people in Portsmouth and another 50 in Washington, Mo.
Company President Richard Hodges had a vision for a turbine in 2008 and has made it a reality in less than four years.
The turbine is sized to supply all of the company’s power needs. It is similar in height to the two highly visible turbines in Warwick, located at the New England Institute of Technology and the Shalom Apartments. It has an overall height of nearly 150 feet but there are some differences; the Hodges turbine has a shorter blade (49 feet to 69 feet) and a larger generating capacity (250 kilowatt compared to 100 kilowatt) respectively, than those in Warwick. It is also the third turbine in Portsmouth; Portsmouth High School and Portsmouth Abbey are the others.
The Hodges windmill is expected to eliminate 10,000 pounds per year of carbon emissions. But the technology and construction for such projects come with a price, one that has often been paid through programs like the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, perhaps better known as the “stimulus package,” the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund.
With stimulus funds dwindling, a major source of economic viability for such projects is disappearing.
“The turbine project received [$391,000 in combined] grant funding from the Rhode Island Renewable Energy Fund and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act,” said Jessica Willis, associate manager for business development at Hodges Badge. The company covered the remainder of the $900,000 cost, about $509,000.
“Our electrical costs are about $100,000 per year,” Willis said, acknowledging that the payback could be relatively quick. “As far as we know we are the first Rhode Island manufacturer to be completely powered by renewable energy.”