EAST PROVIDENCE – Deepwater Wind’s selection of the American Bureau of Shipping, known as ABS, as its agent to verify the design, construction and operation of the Block Island Wind Farm was unanimously approved by a subcommittee of the state Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) Tuesday, July 15.
Deepwater Wind’s selection must next go before the full council for a final vote. If CRMC approves this nomination – no meeting has been scheduled yet – the company will serve as the project’s certified verification agent, or CVA. The ocean special area management plan requires CRMC to approve Deepwater Wind’s choice.
At Tuesday’s OSAMP subcommittee meeting, Theodore Hofbauer, power sector development director at ABS, explained the company’s job.
“The CVA’s role is an independent agent to verify that the facility is being designed, fabricated, installed, constructed and then operated in accordance with design standards and with the regulatory requirements that are current,” Hofbauer said. “Our job is to look at what the developer is doing from an independent view, and say, ‘yes, it meets those requirements,’ or ‘no, it does not.’”
ABS would review the entire process, from the beginning of construction all the way to the decommissioning, or turbine removal, plan. ABS would only verify whether or not Deepwater Wind is compliant with industry and regulatory requirements; it would not perform any engineering on behalf of the company, Hofbaur said. While Deepwater Wind would pay for the services, the CVA works on behalf of the state, not the wind farm developer.
“We’re not here to take any sides; we’re here to verify the facts,” Hofbauer said. “We specifically report to the CRMC. Our job is to report to you, to be an independent evaluator, and report back to you, specifically, whether or not Deepwater Wind is meeting the requirements of their design.”
At a previous meeting, Deepwater Wind attorney Robin Main said ABS met the “gold standard” to verify the plans and construction of an offshore wind farm and is Deepwater Wind’s first choice for three reasons: the company has offshore experience especially with jacketed foundations like those that will be installed for the Block Island Wind Farm, and it has both wind farm experience and international experience.
At Tuesday’s hearing, CRMC legal counsel Brian Goldman said he was negotiating with Deepwater Wind on various aspects of the scope of work agreement between Deepwater Wind and ABS. The agreement, among other things, would require ABS to submit monthly reports to CRMC.
“Deepwater [Wind] made some very significant changes to the agreement,” Goldman said. “We’re still negotiating them, but it’s all going in the right direction. There were three big issues, which I identified with Deepwater [Wind], that I think are resolved.”
Goldman said a provision stating a dispute between the parties would be resolved in “New York courts” would be changed to “Rhode Island courts.” The other two changes were adding CRMC as a signatory to the agreement, and adding a provision stating that ABS reports to the CRMC.
Deepwater Wind’s proposed five turbine Block Island wind farm is expected to begin construction in 2015 and be completed in late 2016, said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in an interview.
“We expect to close the financing in the fall of this year,” Grybowski said in an interview. “The major activity that begins next will begin in the spring of 2015, and is that the steel jacket foundations start to be fabricated. The plan is for the foundations to be shipped from the Gulf of Mexico to Rhode Island in the summer, and installed off the coast of Block Island in the late summer of 2015.”
In late 2015 and early 2016, the onshore work to install the project’s electric transmission cable will be completed, Grybowski said.
“In the springtime of 2016, we begin the final stages, which is the installation of the cable offshore and the installation of the turbines,” he said. “The turbines get delivered and installed offshore around the middle of the summer of 2015. Late summer into the fall, we’re doing the initial hookup of the internal system, and there’s a bunch of testing that happens. By the fall and the winter of 2016, the project is up-and-running and in commercial operation.”
The project has not yet received all of its permits. Deepwater Wind must finalize what Grybowski referred to as “administrative steps” with the CRMC – the approval of the CVA being one of these. It also is waiting on two federal permits – from the U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
CRMC approved the project in June, with a July 13 deadline for any individuals to file an appeal in Rhode Island Superior Court.
CRMC spokeswoman Laura Dwyer said CRMC has not been served any appeals from the Superior Court. However, at least one individual, Robert Shields of Narragansett, has appealed. In a copy of the appeal sent to The South County Independent, Shields claimed CRMC violated its own regulations when it approved the project by failing to consider the economic impact of the project.
“This complaint involves the process by which the CRMC handled public hearings on a proposal by Deepwater Wind Block Island,” Shields stated in his appeal, dated July 11.
“For this proposal submitted by Deepwater Wind Block Island, the full CRMC arbitrarily and capriciously overlooked its own obligations to consider the economic impact and consider the aspirations of local communities of the proposal,” Shields continued in the appeal. “The OSAMP obligates CRMC to consider, among other factors, 1) the economic impact of the [Deepwater Wind] proposal on the state as a whole and 2) the aspirations of the affected communities. The CRMC staff report considered neither, nor did the full CRMC in its vote.”
In the appeal, Shields argues he and several other members of the public attempted to speak to the economic impact of the project at various CRMC public hearings, but were often interrupted.
“This wind farm proposal is without a doubt the most far reaching matter ever to come before the CRMC,” Shields said. “It is truly precedent-setting in many ways. It negatively impacts virtually every resident and business in Rhode Island. Yet, the [CRMC] staff report reveals signs of having been cobbled together rather hurriedly.”