PROVIDENCE – In response to a request from the federal government for proposals to develop offshore wind energy in waters between Rhode Island and Massachusetts, Deepwater Wind has submitted its plan to build a 200-turbine wind farm at least 18 miles from shore.
The Providence-based company sent in the latest version of the plan, which was first announced last December, to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Monday, the deadline for proposals under the request for interest issued by the federal agency in August.
Deepwater announced its formal application for the 1,000-megawatt wind farm on Tuesday. Although one other company – Neptune Wind, of Massachusetts – had previously stated an interest in building a 500-megawatt wind farm in the same waters, it has not said whether it submitted a proposal. A list of all proposals received by the BOEM will be made public in the near future, according to the agency.
Deepwater’s proposal is very similar to the plan the company presented last year, but some key changes were made. At the top of the list is the positioning of the wind farm. Deepwater has shifted the proposed location of the wind farm so that important fishing grounds on the southern slope of Cox Ledge can be avoided.
The shift comes after commercial fishing groups complained last year that the wind farm would disrupt their ability to fish in the area, which lies east of Block Island and southwest of Martha’s Vineyard.
Deepwater has indicated a willingness to move some of its proposed turbines to the center of the ledge, which was initially deemed too rocky to install foundations. The company would be able to install the turbines in these areas by using gravity-based foundations – essentially blocks of concrete weighing thousands of tons that would rest on the ledge – as opposed to steel jacket foundations, which are installed using pilings driven into the ground.
“We’re open to doing either,” Deepwater CEO William M. Moore said.
Although the application covers an area of 248 square miles, Moore said that, if the proposal is approved, his company would probably end up leasing a smaller area. The application offers the company flexibility to configure the wind farm in response to concerns, primarily from the fishing community.
“We’re still in the process of better understanding what the fishermen have concerns about,” Moore said. He added, “We’re even more confident now of our ability to coexist with commercial fishing.”
A Fishing Advisory Board has been set up to inform the BOEM process. Deepwater representatives have already met with fishing groups and state and federal agencies that regulate fishing on multiple occasions, said Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater’s chief administrative officer.
Rick Bellavance, president of the Rhode Island Party and Charter Boat Association, is a member of the advisory board and has met with Deepwater.
“We’ve had some pretty good conversations with the folks at BOEM, and I believe the people at [the state Coastal Resources Management Council] have worked pretty diligently to protect our interests,” he said. “All that gives me a little more confidence that we can develop a proposal that works for the fishing community and for the developer.”
He said a shift away from the southern end of Cox Ledge is more acceptable to the fishing community, but he called it “the lesser of two evils.”
“The slopes on the south are important, but that doesn’t mean the hard bottom isn’t important, too,” he said.
Once BOEM reviews the proposals for development, it would then assess which areas it would lease. On a visit to Rhode Island on Aug. 17, when he announced the request for interest, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that leases could be awarded to developers in 2012.
“That’s our hope and expectation,” said Grybowski.
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