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Block Island wind farm project to apply for major permits in October

By Judy Benson

Publication: The Day

Published October 01. 2012 4:00AM   Updated October 02. 2012 6:12PM
Deepwater likely to be first or second of its kind

The developers of a proposed wind farm to be located three miles off Block Island expect to submit applications for the major state and federal permits the project needs in October.

Editor's note: This version corrects an earlier version.

Deepwater Wind has completed three years of environmental studies of the area where the five turbines would be located, Jeffrey Grybowski, chief administrative officer at Deepwater Wind, said Wednesday.

The Deepwater project remains on track to be the first or second offshore wind farm in the United States, he said. The long-stalled Cape Wind project is now moving forward with plans to construct a wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.

Earlier this month, Deepwater Wind cleared one major hurdle by reaching an agreement with the town of New Shoreham, the municipal entity on Block Island, for an easement to allow cables for the turbines to cross town property. Town Manager Nancy Dodge said the agreement is an option allowing the company to lay cables under the parking lot at the town beach to the Block Island Power Co., which would transmit the power from the turbines to island homes and businesses. The cables would also allow the town to receive power from the mainland when the turbines aren't producing power, and would be paired with a fiber optic cable that would bring much-needed faster Internet service to the island, Dodge said.

Under the option agreement, Deepwater would make a one-time payment of $350,000 to the town to lay the cable, Dodge said.

Grybowski said Deepwater is negotiating with the town of Narragansett for a similar agreement to lay cables under its town beach connecting to the turbines and Block Island.

The company is in the final stages of completing permits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, he said. The Army Corps permits are needed for any project that involves construction in navigable waters. The state permit is for leasing the submerged state lands where the turbines would be located and complying with environmental regulations.

Also needed will be a federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management permit for a small portion of undersea waters where the cables would cross that are under federal jurisdiction.

Environmental studies of bird, bat, fish, whale and other wildlife in the area of the turbines will be made public once the applications are submitted, Grybowski said. Studies were also done of the overall undersea habitat and wave conditions in the area.

He expects public hearings on the applications will take place this fall. Deepwater is hoping for approval of the permits in 2013 and to have the turbines operating by 2014.

The company, based in Providence, has spent about $20 million to date on environmental studies and other preliminary work. Grybowski said the company is confident of being able to obtain investors to fund the $300 million project once permits are obtained.

The turbines would generate 30 megawatts of power, only 10 percent of which would be needed to supply Block Island. The excess power would be transmitted via the 22-mile cable to Narragansett. When the turbines aren't producing power, the cable would send power from the mainland to Block Island, ending the island's reliance on diesel generators at the Block Island Power Co.

Grybowski said the company is also hoping to reach an agreement with National Grid, the power transmission company for Rhode Island, by the end of this year or early 2013.

j.benson@theday.com

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