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Deepwater Wind withdraws landing proposal

NARRAGANSETT – It’s been a week of victory and defeat for Deepwater Wind – from winning the first federal auction for developmental rights for a proposed 200-turbine wind farm, to withdrawing its consideration for landing a transmission line at Narragansett Town Beach for another – albeit much smaller – five-turbine demonstration wind farm off the coast of Block Island.

The company announced Monday that it has withdrawn its application with Narragansett. The move came after President Pro Tem Susan Cicilline-Buonanno placed a motion on the agenda for tonight’s council meeting to reject Deepwater’s bid to get construction easements to land the transmission line.

“We’re continuing to explore alternative routes for the cable that will connect Block Island to the mainland, and we remain confident we’ll find a suitable location,” Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement. “While we believed that Narragansett Town Beach was a good option, it was never the only location we considered.”

“We plan to bury the cable beneath existing roadways, with little to no impact on the general public,” he wrote. “We’ll make our cable plan public once it is further defined.”

Deepwater has plans to construct a five-turbine demonstration-scale wind farm off the coast of Block Island. Ten percent of the energy generated will meet New Shoreham’s needs and the remainder will be transferred through an underwater transmission line to the mainland.

The company proposed to land the cable at the South Pavilion parking lot, run the buried line along Narragansett Avenue and Kingstown Road, and construct a switchyard near Sprague Park, to connect the line to National Grid’s distribution system.

The council had wrestled with granting the necessary construction easements for the project. Grybowski had said Deepwater expected to pay $2.25 million for the easement.

In her memo requesting the motion, Cicilline-Buonanno does not state her reasons to deny the request in her motion, though she cited the “considerable public input” on the proposal.

The majority of residents who have addressed Deepwater’s plans at public meetings this year have spoken against it.

Some members of this vocal group have recently formalized their opposition by creating a political action committee – Deepwater Resistance – with resident Robert Shields serving as president.

Deepwater withdrew its application less than a week after the company was awarded two leases and development rights for more than 164,000 acres of ocean floor. Its winning bid at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s federal auction on Wednesday – the first of its kind – was $3.8 million.

The Providence-based company plans to begin construction of the 150 to 200-turbine wind farm in federal waters 17 miles south of Rhode Island, between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, Mass., in 2017.

“This is an enormous step forward for the industry. This is the best site for offshore wind in the United States, bar none,” Grybowski said, in a separate press release. “Our Deepwater Wind Energy Center Project will produce clean power and jobs for an entire region.”

The energy produced by the proposed wind farm will power approximately 350,000 homes in Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts and Connecticut, and displace more than 1.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually, according to the company’s website.

In the months leading up to the auction, Grybowski repeatedly cited his confidence – to reporters and during a public meeting in Narragansett – that Deepwater would win the auction.

Following the auction, U.S. senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse expressed hope that the state can become a hub of wind power production and manufacturing.

“Rhode Island is poised to be a leader in the development of wind energy because of a state planning process that engaged all stakeholders, and federal funding for infrastructure upgrades to Quonset and ProvPort,” Whitehouse said in a press release.

“There are still many steps involved in this project becoming a reality, and throughout that process, there needs to be a clear and iron-clad commitment to jobs in Rhode Island, after all the state has done in this area,” Reed added.