NARRAGANSETT – The company developing the Block Island Wind Farm is Planning a 15-mile underground transmission line that would provide the first link between the island and the mainland Rhode Island grid. And Providence-based Deepwater Wind has chosen Narragansett Pier, between the Towers and the town beach, as the preferred location for the underground cable to make landfall.
The transmission line is needed because Block Island will use only 10 percent of the energy generated by the five-turbine, 30-megawatt farm to be built three miles off the southeastern coast of Block Island. The transmission system will allow the island to access the mainland power grid and allow Deepwater Wind to export excess wind power to the mainland.
Construction on the project is slated to begin in 2013 and continue through 2014.
At the request of the town, Deepwater has scheduled an open house for Wednesday from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at Narragansett Elementary School, 55 Mumford Road. At the open house, members of the public will have the opportunity to learn more about the project, and view maps of the proposed transmission line route.
“Of all the places along the sea coast, they are going to make landfall here,” said Town Engineer Jeffry Ceasrine, who has met with Deepwater several times. “We felt it was important just to have an open house, to have some preliminary exposure for residents that are interested.”
On Friday, Deepwater’s chief administrative officer discussed the proposal during an interview at the Independent’s office.
“We have completed the route, and know precisely what is on the ocean bottom,” said Jeffrey Grybkowski. “We’re pretty confident.”
The 15-mile underground transmission line will make its land connection in the pier at Gazebo Park, between Narragansett Town Beach and the Towers. For approximately eight weeks during the winter of 2012-13, a large drill will enter the ground at a 15-degree angle, and continue drilling under the sea wall and water until it reaches a concrete coffer dam about 1,500 feet offshore.
The transmission line then will be pulled under the sea wall and road to Gazebo Park, where it will – beside the Canonchet statue – reach land for an historic connection to the main line.
“When it’s done, you won’t see anything, except for a manhole,” said Grybkowski.
Once landed, the transmission line will be buried underground, proceeding up Caswell and Wanda streets to Kingstown Road and Mumford Road in Narragansett before crossing into South Kingstown near Route 1. The line would follow Old Tower Hill Road before heading north onto the property behind Wakefield Mall, eventually connecting with an existing National Grid overhead transmission line on a privately owned parcel.
Road crews would install the 2.4-mile underground line in 100- to 200-foot sections in each road’s right of way. “Once you get in the road, it’s pretty standard work you would see on a regular basis,” Grybkowski said.
He said a number of ecological and geological factors make the Pier a good location for the mainland connecting point.
The Pier makes sense, Grybkowski said, because it allows Deepwater to avoid running the transmission lines through hard cobble that constitutes most of the ocean floor off Point Judith and the stretch of coastal southern Rhode Island from East Matunuck to Westerly.
“There are lots and lots and lots of rocks. It’s very difficult to put a transmission line there,” he said, adding that the cobble is preferred breeding grounds for lobsters.
“It would disturb a lot of sensitive habitats,” he said.
Though the shortest distance between the island and mainland is a connection in Charlestown, Grybkowski said the most efficient route leads to the center of Narragansett.
“It’s very, very difficult to make that landing because of the geology and the ecology,” said Grybkowski of Charlestown.
Deepwater still needs permits from the state Coastal Resources Management Council and state Department of Environmental Management, along with town approval.
In the coming months, scientists hired by Deepwater will flag wetlands and survey archaeological resources along the proposed route.
Surfers needn’t worry, either, said Grybkowski, who said the 15-by-15-foot concrete coffer dam offshore shouldn’t alter wave patterns. The dam also will be located away from a barge that is submerged off the beach.
The town could stand to receive compensation for the disruption. “When we know the plan works, that’s when we will approach them,” said Grybkowski.
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