Deepwater Wind’s plans to build a wind project off the coast of Rhode Island moved one step closer to fruition May 23 with a notification in the Federal Register discussing the development of a related submerged transmission line. As a result of that notice, however, Deepwater Wind may find itself competing for the project.
The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, a branch of the Department of the Interior, served public notice in the Federal Register of the proposed Block Island, R.I., wind farm and transmission project and invited potential competing parties to submit indications of interest for the identified area off the coast of Rhode Island. Deepwater Wind submitted an application to BOEM in November 2011 for a right-of-way grant to develop a transmission line on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf to connect Block Island with mainland Rhode Island, according to the Federal Register, in conjunction with its development of the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm. BOEM also solicited public input and comments on the proposal with its Federal Register notification.
As laid out in the Federal Register, the Block Island Transmission System, or BITS, proposal would build a submerged 34.5-kV, alternating current, bi-directional transmission line connecting a Block Island substation with the Rhode Island mainland by running northeast for 19 nautical miles to an onshore substation in South Kingstown, R.I. An alternate proposal would run an additional seven nautical miles to an onshore substation in Narragansett, R.I. The Deepwater Wind request would be for a right-of-way grant for a 200-foot corridor for an eight-nautical-mile portion of the BITS that would cross the outer continental shelf.
“The project is generally in state waters, but this refers to a narrow portion that crosses federal waters,” BOEM spokeswoman Theresa Eisenman said May 24.
Plans for the Block Island Wind Farm are on a “demonstration-scale,” with the project located three miles southeast of Block Island, R.I., and consisting of five turbines, according to the company.
The 30-MW wind farm and transmission line should meet the majority of Block Island’s electric needs, with excess power to be exported to mainland Rhode Island. Construction could begin as early as 2013.
“Deepwater Wind’s proposed project, the BITS, would entail the construction and installation of a bi-directional submerged transmission cable between Block Island and the Rhode Island mainland,” the register said. “Deepwater Wind proposes that the BITS would serve two purposes: (1) Transmit electrical power from Deepwater Wind’s proposed 30 MW offshore wind energy project located in Rhode Island State waters off Block Island to the Rhode Island mainland; and (2) transmit electrical power from the existing transmission grid on the Rhode Island mainland to Block Island.”
BOEM set a deadline of June 22 for competing parties to make submissions of interest in acquiring a right-of-way grant for the area Deepwater Wind requested, according to the Federal Register. Stakeholders and interested parties also have until June 22 to file information and comments with BOEM. Once the 30-day comment period closes, BOEM will list parties that submit indications of competitive interest on its website. Beyond the BOEM process, the Block Island project still requires numerous permits and approvals from agencies that range from the Rhode Island Coastal Management Council to the Army Corps of Engineers, Deepwater Wind spokeswoman Meaghan Wims said.
A May 22 BOEM statement addressed the competitive procedure.
“If BOEM receives indications of competitive interest from qualified entities in response to today’s notice, the bureau may decide to move forward with the right-of-way grant issuance process using competitive procedures,” the statement said. “BOEM will continue to consult with the state task force and partners regarding the proposed transmission project.”
Deepwater Wind CEO William Moore called the BOEM announcement an important step in making the Block Island Wind Farm the first offshore wind facility in North America.
“Offshore transmission combined with offshore wind is the perfect combination for Northeast markets, especially in New England, Long Island, and metropolitan New York, where population centers are clustered near the coast and the wind is strong,” Moore said via email May 24. “Block Island is leading the way, but others will follow.”
In February, Moore commented on the growing reality of offshore wind generation after the Interior Department identified more than 160,000 acres for potential offshore wind energy development.
Deepwater Wind submitted a proposal for the 1,000-MW Deepwater Wind Energy Center to the BOEM in October 2011. The Deepwater Wind Energy Center is planned as a 200-turbine project with most turbines located more than 20 miles from the Rhode Island and Massachusetts coasts and the potential to generate enough electricity to power about 350,000 homes, according to the company.
“As companies continue to plan wind energy generation projects off of Rhode Island and elsewhere along the Atlantic coast, it is critical that we also remain focused on developing the infrastructure that will bring that power to the grid,” Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Tommy Beaudreau said in the statement. “Transmission projects like this one have the potential to play an important role in bringing clean electricity to our homes and communities, as part of the Obama administration’s all of the above energy strategy.”