There have been some big fans at the Johnston High School athletic facility over the years, but none may have been as big as the one that appeared there Wednesday morning.
The “fan” was actually a 200-foot-long, 18,000-pound windmill blade that is one of 21 that Green Development has been transporting into town to construct their new wind farm along Plainfield Pike and Shun Pike.
On Wednesday morning, one of the coldest and appropriately windiest days of the season, Green Development Chairman and founder Mark DePasquale, Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, along with 180 Johnston High School seniors and other elected officials and dignitaries gathered outside Mayor Joseph M. Polisena Stadium to participate in a blade signing ceremony.
“This is truly a special day and a historic day. Our town has been doing our part in having several green energy projects. The wind turbines is probably one of the biggest projects in the town, no doubt about it. There are seven of them going up, and look at the size of that blade, that is huge,” said Mayor Joseph Polisena. “With these green energy projects, myself the Town Council and the School Committee have set up scholarship programs for our high school seniors. A total of $525,000 will be distributed over the next 20 to 25 years for future Johnston High School seniors.”
At the event, Green Development presented a check to the Town of Johnston totaling $175,000 to establish a scholarship fund.
“We appreciate the leadership of the mayor and other elected officials in town that made this project a reality. They embraced this technology and our company and now the Town of Johnston can claim they have the largest onshore wind farm at 21MW in all of southern New England,” said Mark DePasquale, chairman and founder of Green Development, LLC. “It is our highest priority to invest in communities where we are developing projects, and this is part of our commitment to the Town of Johnston.”
The blade was moved in the middle of the night to the school so as not to cause any major traffic disruptions. It represents the last of the blades to be installed. DePasquale said that once the blade is in, the wind farm would become operational by the end of the year.
As part of the celebration, the class of 2019 had the opportunity to sign their names onto the blade using permanent markers to commemorate the occasion.
“Sign it, tag it, and it will be up there for the next 25 years so you can show your family and can remember this day,” DePasquale told the students.
He wished them luck in the future, and DePasquale encouraged students to consider careers in the renewable sector.
“It is one of the largest growing industries in the United States right now. But I encourage you to follow your dreams, because if you follow your dreams you will succeed,” he said.
Along with the scholarship payment, Green will make tax payments of $140,000 per year to the town. Once completed, the Johnston wind farm will be the largest onshore wind farm in Rhode Island from an operational capacity perspective at 21MW.
Johnston High School 1985 graduate Michael Sabitoni, the business manager and treasurer for the Rhode Island Labor’s district council that helped build the turbines, has twin sons in this year’s graduating class. He thanked the town’s leadership and Green for the opportunity to work on the massive project.
“With some vision and courage, we’ll get where we need to get in this country, which is off of the dependency of fossil fuels, and get to a 100 percent renewable future,” he said.
School officials were happy that the project would benefit students locally while offering a cleaner energy source.
“The major part of this event really is the scholarship fund, in terms of having money for future Johnston high school classes,” said Superintendent Dr. Bernard DiLullo Jr. “That is such a huge contribution and it’s well appreciated, and this kind of commemorates that great donation to the schools.”
Johnston High School Principal Dennis Morrell agreed.
“I just want to thank the company for their generosity. That’s amazing that they give back to the community and shows how dedicated they are. It really impresses me,” said Morrell. “It’s all about the kids.”