Deepwater Wind has officially submitted plans for a cable connecting Block Island and the mainland to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), project manager Bryan Wilson reported to the town’s Electric Utility Task Group Monday.
The cable would be part of Deepwater’s proposed 30-megawatt offshore wind farm within three miles of the southeast side of the island. The project could be the first offshore wind farm in the United States and the cable would connect the island to the mainland power grid.
BOEM will review the portion of the submarine cable that crosses through federal waters between the island and the mainland. Wilson told the EUTG that Deepwater has submitted all its plans for the wind farm and substations along with the information about the cable in federal waters. He called the document “one of the most comprehensive they have ever seen.”
This month the town’s planning and zoning boards approved a substation connecting the wind farm to the island, and the island to the mainland. The Town Council has yet to sign off on the proposed cable landing site near the town beach or grant permission for the company to bury transmission cables along the roads from the beach to the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo). The council will take up those issues on Wednesday, May 2.
Deepwater is continuing discussions with BIPCo over a lease agreement for the land the substation will be built on. Next month, the EUTG plans to discuss issues regarding the decommissioning of the wind farm. Wilson said that the company did not have a problem with the town hiring an outside consultant on the issue, but said he thought it would be premature.
EUTG member Everett Shorey suggested the group discuss how power would be purchased from the mainland once a transmission cable is installed. He said that the island should consider setting up a municipal agency to negotiate power purchases.
Shorey said that he did not think BIPCo should necessarily be the entity to buy the power and that he didn’t think it was even in its interest to do so.
The group agreed send a letter to the Town Council detailing the risks and benefits of purchasing the power company. It will include its finding that the town could reduce its energy costs if the power company was owned by a non-profit organization. It originally made that recommendation to the council in 2008 when it first looked into purchasing the company.
The EUTG agreed on an estimated cost for solar installations on the island to add to a list of facts about Block Island’s energy costs. The group will use the list as part of a presentation it plans to give to various island groups. The group concluded that photovoltaic systems cost around 20 cents per watt and that they become more affordable at larger scales.
The task group discussed several letters it received. Chris Warfel suggested that the town could begin a condemnation process of BIPCo by first condemning the streetlights and installing LED lights to save money. The members liked the idea of switching the street lights to LEDs and said the place to start would be to approach BIPCo about utilizing them.
Members also thought an idea proposed by Glen Pence to use hydroelectric power at the Old Town Road bridge was worthy of further consideration. However, they noted that the flow under the bridge was relatively minimal and largely seasonal, which could make the project less cost-effective.
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