Deepwater Wind submits application for wind turbines off Block Island

Deepwater Wind announced Tuesday that it has submitted final applications for the major state and federal permits it will need to build a five-turbine wind farm in Rhode Island state waters 3 miles from Block Island.

The applications, filed with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, include three years’ worth of studies of the environmental impacts of the proposed wind farm.

If approved, the $300 million project could become the first offshore wind farm in the United States, vying for that status with the proposed Cape Wind project in waters off Cape Cod, Mass.

“The filing of our permit applications represents a significant milestone toward development of the groundbreaking Block Island Wind Farm,” William Moore, chief executive officer of the Providence-based Deepwater, said in a news release.

The company said its studies of the impacts on birds, marine mammals, fish and the overall habitat indicate that “there are no environmental impediments to building and operating the wind farm and transmission cable in the designated locations.” The site for the proposed wind farm was previously identified in the state’s Ocean Special Area Management Plan as one suitable for an offshore wind farm.

The Block Island wind farm would be comprised of five 6-megawatt turbines that would generate 125,000 megawatt-hours each year once fully operational, enough to power 17,200 Rhode Island households, according to an announcement from the Army Corps. Undersea cables would transmit the power to Block Island as well as send excess power to the mainland at Narragansett. The mainland cable would also send power to Block Island when the turbines aren’t producing power.

The Army Corps will be receiving public comment on the application until Nov. 19. Corps spokesman Tim Dugan said a public hearing will be scheduled if there is a request for one.

Laura Dwyer, spokeswoman for the CRMC, said the agency is still reviewing Deepwater’s application to determine whether it is complete. Once it is deemed complete, a public notice will be issued and a public hearing scheduled.

Deepwater said it expects to obtain permits in 2013 and to have the turbines operating by 2014. The five-turbine wind farm is conceived as a demonstration project to lay the groundwork for larger wind farms the company hopes to build to serve New England, Long Island, metropolitan New York and New Jersey.

Mike Elliott, project manager for the Army Corps, said all the environmental studies done by the state and the company in preparation for the application have raised no major problems thus far with the proposal.

“This seems like it does have a shot at being the first offshore wind farm to be built in the U.S.,” he said.

In a news release, the Army Corps said it has made a preliminary determination that the project is “not likely to adversely affect terrestrial and marine protected species.” The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service are being consulted about threatened and endangered species, and the agencies’ input will be considered in the final permit decision, the corps said.

The project will temporarily affect 16.6 acres of fish habitat during construction and less than an acre while the turbines are operating, according to the corps. Laying the cables will temporarily disturb about 47 acres and about 1.3 acres during operation.

The corps noted that the project has been located outside of important habitats such as eelgrass beds and hard bottom substrates.

j.benson@theday.com

Information and comment

The Corps' public notice, with more detailed information, can be viewed at: http://www.nae.usace.army.mil/Regulatory/Public%20Notices/.

Public comments on the application can be sent no later than Nov. 19 to: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Michael Elliott), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751.

Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Michael Elliott at (978) 318-8131 or (800) 343-4789 or or by email to: michael.j.elliott@usace.army.mil.

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