A turbine grows in Warwick

Windy City
By RICHARD ASINOF  |  November 4, 2009

 TJI_sekeres2_main

SAVVY Sekeres.

If all goes well, Shalom Housing in Warwick, a division of Jewish Seniors Agency, will be the home of a 100-kilowatt wind turbine, part of new federal “green” stimulus award of up to $1.5 million from the US Housing and Urban Development to retrofit the 30-year-old, 100-unit low-cost senior housing project.

The first priority, explains Bonnie A. Sekeres, the executive director at Shalom Housing, who has managed the housing project since it first opened its doors, is to replace the boiler and central air conditioning system. Then, her plans are to replace all the refrigerators and toilets of the tenants. And, if money permits, erect a wind turbine.

“The application urged us to think out-of-the-box. So, we did,” Sekeres says. The wind turbine, which should pay for itself in 10 years, would significantly lower the cost of electricity both for the facility and for tenants.

Rhode Island’s state government, it seems, might learn something from the savvy Sekeres, who successfully navigated the hoop-filled process to win the award, the only Rhode Island applicant to succeed in the national competition.

It was a first-come, first-served competition, so Sekeres transmitted the e-mail part of the application at 12:01 am on the submittal day. When HUD initially announced the award, she was given a two-week window to get two bids each for all the work; Sekeres went out and got three bids for each.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” Sekeres says. “In total, there was only $250 million available nationwide. To win the award is quite an honor — it’s a big deal.”

On her desk are a plethora of bound documents — including a 700-page engineering report, a complete energy audit of the building, a methodology report on how the grant will be implemented, and the bids for the work. The final approval for the project will be given this month, Sekeres says, with all the work completed during the next year. “It will be thrilling,” Sekeres says, to have a wind turbine spinning on site, near Route 5, just down the road from a similarly sized wind turbine at New England Tech.

A number of residents, gathered in the foyer waiting for the mail to arrive, agree wholeheartedly. Although they receive a monthly allowance to help them with electricity costs, it’s still a major expense for most. “It will be terrific,” one woman says, pointing to her husband. “He has to be on oxygen all night long. It’s expensive with the cost of elec-tricity.”

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