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Comment period opens for Deepwater windfarm  

Credit:  By Pippa Jack | Block Island Times | Oct 02, 2012 | block-island.villagesoup.com ~~

It’s time for Deepwater Wind to take the spotlight. The company has submitted all its applications to the various state and federal agencies that will determine whether the company’s Block Island Wind Farm should be given permits for construction, and the US Army Corps of Engineers today opened a 45-day comment period on the $300 million project.

The windfarm is to lie three miles off the southern bluffs of Block Island and will be linked to the mainland power grid by an undersea cable. Providence’s Deepwater Wind says the 30-megawatt, five-turbine farm could be operational within two years. It is likely to be the first offshore windfarm in the United States.

“We’re excited to share our findings,” said Deepwater Wind CEO William M. Moore. “The filing of our permit applications represents a significant milestone toward development of the groundbreaking Block Island Wind Farm.”

The Corps is the lead federal agency on the application and has made preliminary determinations that the project will not have long-term adverse effects on sea life or protected species.

“Deepwater Wind has minimized impacts to fish and invertebrate species by siting the project to avoid direct impacts to important habitats such as eelgrass and hard bottom substrates known to be used by some species throughout various life stages,” said a press release by the Corps. “Deepwater Wind has also minimized impacts on marine habitats by selecting construction techniques and equipment (e.g., jet-plowing, horizontal directional drill and dynamic positioning vessels) that substantially minimize disturbance and alteration of substrate during construction activities. However, despite this effort it is unavoidable that some marine habitats will be temporarily degraded (both water column and bottom habitat) and/or altered.”

The Corps public notice, with more detailed information, can be viewed on the public comment section of nae.usace.army.mil.

Public comments are due Nov. 19 and can be mailed to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New England District, Regulatory Division (ATTN: Michael Elliott), 696 Virginia Road, Concord, MA 01742-2751.

Additional information is available from Permit Project Manager Michael Elliott at 978-318-8131 or toll free 800-343-4789 or 800-362-4367 (if calling from within Massachusetts) or by email to: michael.j.elliott@usace.army.mil.

Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council is the lead state agency for the project, and it is expected to open a 3-day public comment period later this month. The New Shoreham Town Council has asked CRMC to hold a public meeting on Block Island.

Deepwater has posted all the documents for the application on its website, dwwind.com. They list the lengthy applications and the work the company has done to support them, which has so far cost about $7 million.

“Deepwater Wind invested more than $7 million – all private dollars – in the effort, which involved dozens of experts such as biologists and ecologists with expertise in avian, marine mammal and fish species and their habitats; terrestrial and marine archaeologists; electrical, civil, structural, acoustic and marine engineers; architects; wetlands scientists; statisticians; and many others,” said the company in a prepared statement.

The company also gave Rhode Island $3.5 million to help it develop a Special Area Management Plan for its waters.

Cost estimates for the windfarm are now at $250 million for the windfarm, including five 6-megawatt Siemens turbines with 15 year warranties. That figure has grown from initial estimates of $205 million when the state Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement with National Grid. The undersea cable is expected to cost $50 million and will be built by Deepwater but then sold to National Grid. Last week, company president Chris van Beek said the cost of dismantling the windfarm in 20 years will be about $7.5 million in today’s dollars. The cable is expected to last for closer to 50 years.

The turbines would each rise 600 feet above sea level to the highest tip of the turbine blades, and lie about a half mile apart in a string that would face the island’s southeast coast. Deepwater’s website also shows photo and video simulations of what the turbines would look like.

Deepwater says it expects this final stage of the permitting process to be resolved by early 2013. The company will then do a final round of financing before beginning construction.

Source:  By Pippa Jack | Block Island Times | Oct 02, 2012 | block-island.villagesoup.com

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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