PROVIDENCE – The company behind a proposed $220 million wind farm off Block Island may need to start construction later than initially planned because of a court case.
Deepwater Wind Chief Development Officer Paul Rich said Thursday that one of the contingency plans under review would start construction in 2013.
Previously the company has said it wants wind turbines spinning by the end of 2012 when federal tax credits worth millions of dollars are set to expire. The farm, with six to eight turbines, would sit about three miles off the coast of Block Island.
“We’ve got several different plans we will continue to massage,” Rich said.
The Watertown Daily Times, an upstate New York paper that interviewed Deepwater CEO William Moore, first reported the possible pushback of the farm on Jan. 24. The paper quoted Moore saying that he anticipated construction would start in 2013.
Rich said Moore’s comments do not imply the Providence-based company now has definite plans to start construction in 2013.
“This isn’t switching plans,” he said. “It’s trying to refine and put more detail on schedules that have different thresholds.”
Construction will depend largely on how quickly a R.I. Supreme Court case is resolved, Rich said. Plaintiffs in the case are questioning the R.I. Public Utilities Commission’s approval of a contract for Deepwater to sell electricity to National Grid.
Rich said the case has not yet jeopardized the project; however, the Providence-based company must set a construction start date in the later half of the year to provide enough time to secure the equipment required for the farm. The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments for the case this spring.
Deepwater, Rich said, is also hopeful Congress will extend federal tax credits for wind farms. Moore told PBN in March that the credits would be worth $56.5 million for the company. For the company to secure the credits, the farm must be operational by the end of 2012.
“There is a risk there for sure,” Rich said. “But traditionally those tax credits have been reinstated, even retroactively and that’s just something we’ll have to take on we as we go forward.”
A postponement could delay the creation of hundreds of jobs Deepwater has pledged to create as part of assembly operations at Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown. A delay would also allow time for a wind farm proposed in Nantucket Sound to leapfrog the Deepwater farm and become the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
That could jeopardize the state’s “first mover” position that former Gov. Donald L. Carcieri called crucial to sparking a renewable energy industry in the state.
Michael Trainor, a spokesman for Gov. Lincoln D. Chafee, said Friday that the administration that took office this month is aware that Deepwater has been considering alternate construction dates.
“This whole particular question of timetables is under scrutiny of our policy director,” Trainor said, adding that the administration needed more time to study the potential ramifications of a delay in construction.
When the Carcieri administration selected Deepwater as the state’s “preferred developer” of an offshore wind farm, it inked a joint development agreement that called for the Block Island project to come online by June 30, 2012.
The agreement, however, allows Deepwater and the state an automatic extension in the case of delays caused by “judicial authorities beyond their control.”
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