NARRAGANSETT— Like others mulling around the Deepwater Wind open house last night, Wanda Street resident Dave Tiberio was curious.
He heard Deepwater, the Providence-based group developing the five-turbine, 30-megawatt wind farm off Block Island, wanted to transfer unused energy to the mainland grid through Narragansett Pier.
The plan is to construct a 15-mile underground transmission line – the Block Island Transmission System – that would serve as the first link between the island and mainland Rhode Island grid.
“I think it’s just something that we’re going to have to get used to,” said Tiberio, looking over a map on display inside Narragansett Elementary School. “Some people may not want them, but the reality is I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. It’s a free energy source.”
Deepwater invited the public to Wednesday’s open house to learn about the farm and the underground transmission line, which will touch down near the Canonchet statue in the Pier before proceeding up Caswell Street to Kingstown Road and Mumford Road in Narragansett. The line would then cross into South Kingstown near Route 1, follow Old Tower Hill Road before heading north onto property behind Wakefield Mall, where it will connect with a National Grid overhead transmission line on a privately owned parcel.
“You can’t argue, ‘Well, it’s my street. Go to someone else’s,’” said Tiberio. “But I think people can ask if there is an alternative that makes more sense.”
Deepwater CEO William Moore said construction crews could install 100 to 200 feet of cable a day, resulting in construction in front of a house for about a week.
In October, Deepwater officials sought out North Kingstown resident Doug Somers to charter a boat for a tour of Block Island so they could visualize what the turbines would look like off the coast.
”These guys reached out to us to take them out to Block Island,” he said. “They wanted to be out there and see it and touch and feel it themselves.
“I think they have a pretty good idea of the best plan, and I think they’re pretty willing to come out and talk to everyone.”
The open house featured several stations – featuring topics from engineering to turbine construction – where representatives from Deepwater answered questions on the size of the cable, the safety of the cable and the possibility of alternative routes once the cable reaches land.
“I think there was a lot of legitimately curious people who showed up and who wanted to know the basics,” said Jeffrey Grybkowski, Deepwater’s chief administrative officer. “People were asking about the construction of the line and how we would go about building that.”
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.
Town Manager Grady Miller, who was at the open house for the duration of the event, said a primary concern was preventing a route that would run the cable underneath the town beach.
When asked, Miller said the town is working to determine appropriate compensation for use of Casino Park during the winter of 2013.
“There weren’t a lot of expressions of concern, but lots of questions and lots of people who had their own ideas about where the lines could run,” said Grybkowski.
Information gathered during the open house most likely would be discussed with engineers, said Grybkowski.
Moore said he expected to have more public informational meetings before filing with town and state agencies for the required permits to connect the line to land. 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.
“We like to have multiple outreach sessions to give people the chance to come,” said Moore. “The response is surprisingly positive. I think a lot of people are very excited about the biggest wind farm in southern New England being not too far away.”
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