Deepwater Wind is seeking to build the largest offshore wind farm in the nation approximately 14 miles east of Block Island.
The company filed an application with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) in October to install 200 wind turbines in two areas comprised of approximately 270 square miles between Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The entire facility, which would be called the Deepwater Wind Energy Center – estimated to cost up to $5 billion – would be capable of generating 1,000 megawatts, or one gigawatt, of electricity.
Deepwater proposes to deliver the electricity to markets via a transmission network it would construct, called the New England-Long Island Interconnector. It is expected to cost an additional $1 billion and would involve a number of undersea cables.
As Deepwater Chief Development Officer Paul Rich explained, the interconnector would allow the company to sell to four states – Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York. With this arrangement the cost impacts would be spread out over many states and ratepayers. And with economies of scale, Deepwater Wind CEO William Moore estimates that the DWEC electricity price would be lower than those currently approved for other projects. The electricity price for Cape Wind, proposed to be 130 turbines, would start at 18.7 cents per kilowatt-hour and escalate 3.5 percent annually over 15 years. Deepwater’s Block Island demonstration project – six to eight turbines – would start at a maximum of 24.4 cents per-kWh, escalating 3.5 percent over 20 years.
Deepwater would likely negotiate Power Purchase Agreements in these states concurrently with permitting for the sites themselves.
Previously, Deepwater had proposed a smaller installation in Rhode Island Sound, approximately 100 turbines, each capable of producing 3.6 megawatts of electricity. As Rich explained, that original proposal stemmed from Gov. Donald Carcieri’s call for 16 percent of the state’s electricity to come from offshore wind by 2019.
According to the Public Utilities Commission, Rhode Island’s average demand is 1,100 megawatts; and peak demand is about 1,700 megawatts.
Rich said that if approved, the DWEC project would likely utilize state-of-the-art turbines capable of generating 5 megawatts of electricity. They would sit atop steel jackets placed on the sea floor. The depth in the selected areas is between 130 and 160 feet. The configuration of the farm is based in large part upon the data gathered for the Special Area Management Plan. It takes in account shipping lanes, commercial fishing sites, animal migration, etc.
The sites chosen would be between 18 and 27 miles from Newport, and between 15 and 25 miles from Martha’s Vineyard.
They are within the Area of Mutual Interest agreed to last summer by Carcieri and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. Massachusetts-based Neptune Wind has also submitted an application for an offshore wind farm within the AMI. It’s not certain yet if Neptune’s application asks for the same areas as Deepwater. If so, a bid process would ensue.
After initial approvals, Deepwater’s project would require a Site Assessment Plan and Construction and Operation Plan (known as a SAP/COP).
Construction windows would be delineated in the permitting process, likely between May and October, according to Rich. The company plans to erect 50 turbines per each construction window. If all goes according to plan, the first group of 50 of turbines would go online in 2015.
“The Deepwater Wind Energy Center is a major leap forward for the offshore wind industry,” Moore said in a prepared statement. “DWEC will be the first regional offshore wind energy center in the United States, with a wind farm and a transmission system serving multiple markets. The industry is maturing and becoming a major force in reshaping our national energy future for the better, and DWEC will lead this effort.
The BOEMRE is hosting a meeting of the Rhode Island and Massachusetts at Roger Williams University Law School, Room 283, second floor, in Bristol, R.I. on Friday, December 10, from 10:30 a.m. to 3:15 p.m.
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