One of the Last Great Bait and Switches. Yes, Block Island is one of the Last Great Places in the Western Hemisphere. But, it is also one of the best examples of public officials and corporate executives pulling the wool over the eyes of Block Islanders and mainland Rhode Islanders.
As recent as Feb. 4, 2014, former New Shoreham Town Council Members were once again misleading public officials by providing commentary at a formal Open Meeting before the RI Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) indicating that a majority of Block Islanders supported the pending Deepwater windfarm contemplated by the latter’s application for permits before the CRMC. How does this happen?
On July 8, 2009, the Block Island Town Council requested Lefteris Pavlides, a professor at Roger Williams University, to conduct a survey of Block Island registered voters or landowners to “find out whether Block Island residents would support or oppose a wind park off the shores of Block Island.” The Survey included 24 directed questions and seven images. The cover photo on the survey and the important simulations were taken from actual aerial and ground photography of the Scroby Sands Wind Farm in the North Sea located 1.6 miles off the coast of Eastern England. The survey clearly uses the Scroby Sands Wind Farm as the benchmark for what survey participants were to expect for the wind farm that is contemplated 2.8 miles off of Block Island.
The Scroby Windfarm was commissioned in 2004, consisting of 30 wind turbines. The turbines have a capacity factor of just two megawatts each and stand at top blade height 330 feet above the mean sea level. For reference purposes, the top of the SE Lighthouse stands approximately 300 feet above sea level.
Survey results provided by the Town Council indicate that a slight majority of Block Islanders would be open minded for a wind farm of some kind having turbines similar to those in the Scroby Windfarm. But, that is surely not what we will be getting on Block Island if the project continues. The survey is no longer a valid representations of resident opinions.
You see, based upon disclosures made by Deepwater in its pending CRMC application, the windfarm it is seeking to build will consist of five turbines that have capacity factors of six megawatts and stand approximately 600 feet at top blade-tip height. This windfarm is far different than the one contemplated by the Pavlides Survey. Continuing to cite the survey as public support for the windfarm is at least irresponsible, and possibly redressible, since it continues to be cited by Town Council Members who were sitting Council Members at the time the survey was commissioned by the Town.
To put this scale difference into perspective, consider this – at 330 feet maximum height, the wind turbines cited in the Pavlides Survey would stand only slightly higher than the SE Bluffs themselves, making the turbines visible only to those standing right on, or close to, the bluffs or across water from other island locations. Not generally visible across island lands.
In April 2013, the Rhode Island State Historic Preservation Office (RI SHPO) requested Deepwater to provide answers to questions regarding visual impact that its proposed windfarm would have on registered Historical Landmarks. In May 2013, the Public Archaeology Laboratory (PAL), on behalf of Deepwater, submitted a technical memorandum in response to the RI SHPO request. The PAL report provides viewshed modeling data and topography exposure results on all island locations (public and private). The report provides detailed viewshed data over the entire island for all or parts of the turbines. Importantly, the report examines where you can see entire turbines from their bases, where half-heights would be visible (100.5 meters, which would expose the nacelle generator and all turning blades), and just blade tips. Very importantly, the report indicates that one could be sitting on boat in the Great Salt Pond and fully see three of the five turbine nacelles and all three turning blades at once six miles away by looking over land. That is, looking over The Fire Station, Town Hall, up Spring Street, over The Atlantic Inn, passed the SE Light out to the turning windfarm generators and blades. All from sitting on a dinghy in the Great Salt Pond.
So, yes, the PAL report to the Historic Preservation Office indicates that what Deepwater plans for us is a far cry from the visualization provided in the Pavlides Survey. No one, let alone former Town Council Members or the leadership of BIRA, should be citing the Pavlides Survey to sitting regulators as resident support for the fantastically different windfarm contemplated by Deepwater. Stop pulling the wool over the eyes of your constituency.
Bait and switch, all around.
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