PROVIDENCE – The federal government this week released a draft report on the environmental impact of the first large-scale wind turbine project that would power Rhode Island – thousands of pages of analysis on everything from shipwrecks to whales to commercial fishing.
The release of the report on Monday by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management marks a milestone in the Revolution Wind project, a joint venture of Denmark-based Ørsted and the Massachusetts utility Eversource. The project would bring 400 megawatts of power to Rhode Island and 304 megawatts to Connecticut.
“It’s huge,” said Kellen Ingalls, Ørsted’s project development director for Revolution Wind. “It’s almost as big as the document is.”
That’s saying something: The report weighs in at 2,386 pages in PDF form, with tables, charts, maps, definitions, and analyses looking at ways in which the project, in various different scenarios and arrangements, might affect the world around it.
According to Ørsted and Eversource, nothing has come up yet in the days since the report was released, with no major red flags that would derail the project. The report is based on submissions the developers made to the federal government.
But the federal government will use it – and the public comments it generates – to determine whether the proposal should be approved, and if approved, what mitigation measures should be required, shaping the project going forward: Where, exactly, will the turbines be placed? How many will there be? How many megawatts should each one be? And what sort of effect would each of those things have, on everything from historical artifacts to fish species?
Federal regulators have laid it all out, and now people will now have a chance to weigh in.
“How do we balance the needs of the many different constituencies, the stakeholders, the interests – what we as New Englanders have decided is important for us?” Julia Bovey, Eversource’s director of external affairs, said in an interview. “All of those concerns have to be balanced to build projects that everyone can be most proud of.”
Offshore wind projects sometimes stoke concerns from, among other groups, the commercial fishing industry.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will hold public meetings on Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. at Aquinnah Old Town Hall, 67 State Road in Aquinnah, Massachusetts; Oct. 5 at 5 p.m. at the Swift Community Center, 121 Pierce Street in East Greenwich, Rhode Island; and Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. at Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Boulevard in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Virtual public meetings are set for Sept. 29 at 1 p.m. and Oct. 11 at 5 p.m.
Rhode Island is home to the first offshore wind power project in the country, the Block Island wind farm. That is a small-scale, five-turbine demonstration project. Other large-scale projects off New England are in the pipeline, like South Fork and Vineyard Wind, but those would not bring power to Rhode Island.
Revolution would bring power to Rhode Island, through a cable making landfall at the Quonset Business Park. It would be about 15 nautical miles southeast of Point Judith and about 13 nautical miles east of Block Island, with up to 100 turbines.
The project still has several more hurdles, among them sign-off from the Coastal Resources Management Council in Rhode Island, and approvals from the federal government. The developers say they could get their approvals next year, with construction starting shortly after.
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