Providence – A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought over the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
The lawsuit was filed in 2015 by plaintiffs including the Rhode Island Manufacturers Association and others. They argued that utility National Grid’s deal to purchase power from the wind farm violated federal law and would result in a significant increase to their electric bills.
U.S. District Judge William Smith this month found the lawsuit was filed after the statute of limitations had expired and dismissed it.
The five-turbine wind farm is currently being constructed by Deepwater Wind just offshore from Rhode Island’s Block Island. Deepwater has been using the Block Island wind farm as a demonstration for a larger project it plans to build in federal waters further offshore. The Long Island Power Authority last week said it is working with Deepwater Wind to build a 90-megawatt, 15-turbine wind farm in those waters. Deepwater Wind plans more turbines later.
The Rhode Island Manufacturers Association sued National Grid, Deepwater Wind and members of the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission over the 20-year power purchase agreement, which the commission approved in 2010. Then-Gov. Don Carcieri, a Republican, had pushed it, arguing that while the price of the wind power was higher than existing electricity rates, he believed the gap would eventually disappear over the life of the contract.
Rhode Island Supreme Court upheld the agreement in 2011 after a different lawsuit, also over costs.
Bill McCourt, president and CEO of the manufacturers’ trade group, said on Monday that his group is not opposed to alternative energy sources, but Rhode Island already has some of the highest electricity rates in the country.
“They’ve got to be affordable,” he said. “It’s not competitive.”
Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in a statement that company officials were pleased by the dismissal of what he called a frivolous lawsuit. He said it did not affect construction on the project, which is expected to be complete in the coming months.
A message left with a spokesman for National Grid was not immediately returned.
McCourt said they are still deciding whether to appeal.
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