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Wind-farm site still up in air  

NARRAGANSETT – The group of stakeholders evaluating sites for a state-sponsored offshore wind-energy project concluded its meetings yesterday without coming to a consensus on which of the 11 potential sites would be best suited for the development.

At the outset of the meetings, the state official spearheading the project said he had hoped the group of about 35 people representing various interests, agencies and communities could reach an agreement on where the development should go.

But after four meetings, several group members said they still didn’t have enough information to pick out just one site, while others said it would be unwise to throw out particular sites this early in the process.

“It is premature to start eliminating sites based on the information we have now,” said Cynthia Giles, Rhode Island advocacy center director for the Conservation Law Foundation.

“Nothing that came out in the stakeholders meetings is a basis to eliminate any of the sites,” she said.

Andrew Dzykewicz, chief energy adviser to the governor, described the outcome as the result of the state having an abundance of riches, in terms of potential wind energy. “This is the trouble when we’re blessed with so many resources,” he said after yesterday’s meeting at the University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay campus. “It’s hard to nail down.”

Governor Carcieri has proposed building a state-owned wind farm on the scale of the proposed Cape Wind project off Cape Cod that would be large enough to generate 15 percent of the state’s electricity. Depending on where it is situated, it could cost $900 million to $1.9 billion to build.

The group members, who were invited by the governor’s energy office, first met in August. They started with a 132-page study, commissioned by the governor, that identified 11 sites where a facility could be economically viable. Ten of those sites were offshore.

During the meetings, stakeholders were asked to raise any issues or potential problems that would make particular sites more or less suitable for the project.

In the end, the group didn’t find any “show-stoppers,” Dzykewicz said.

The lack of a consensus did not appear to reflect reluctance on the part of the stakeholders to go forward with the wind project. Even as group members expressed concerns about possible problems with a particular site, those concerns were usually accompanied by expressions of support.

For example, at last week’s meeting, Lanny Dellinger, president of the Rhode Island Lobsterman’s Association, said that the construction process will almost certainly kill lobsters and their eggs. “That’s going to affect us directly,” he said. But he also added, “We’re not against this. To get away from fossil fuels is a great thing.”

At yesterday’s meeting, the group members got to see what the offshore wind farms might look like from land.

Michael Harper, a third-year architecture student at Roger Williams University, worked with other students and Prof. Lefteris Pavlides to create photographs showing clusters of wind turbines superimposed on scenic vistas. The students took several photographs from spots in Little Compton, Block Island and other South County locations and used computer programs, including one that creates three-dimensional models, to make the realistic-looking renderings.

The wind turbines appear most prominently from land if the state chooses sites closest to Block Island, judging by the simulated photographs.

But the view of that wind farm was created using pictures taken from a relatively remote spot on the southern shore of Block Island, reached only by a two-mile hike, said Peter B. Baute, a New Shoreham town councilman. Baute said he accompanied the students who took the photographs. The view for homeowners would be less pronounced, he said.

The information presented to the stakeholders, as well as the issues raised by the stakeholders, will be compiled into a report. From that report, the state’s Office of Energy Resources, headed by Dzykewicz, will decide which site to move into the permitting process, he said.

The most promising sites, he said, appear to be a 26-square-mile area just south of Block Island, and a 32-square-mile area off the coast of Little Compton, he said.

His office could decide to move forward on permitting two or three sites, Dzykewicz said. The state could own one of them, and could then offer the others for lease to developers, he said, adding that the lease payments could be used to further offset the cost of electricity for Rhode Islanders.

By Timothy C. Barmann

Journal Staff Writer

Providence Journal

1 November 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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