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U.S. seeks proposals for wind farms off R.I., Mass.

Leases could be awarded as early as 2012, said Salazar, although any construction is still at least three years away. He called the news "another major milestone in the development of offshore wind power in America." No such installation has been built yet.

NORTH KINGSTOWN - With a sparkling Narragansett Bay as a backdrop, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major step forward Wednesday in developing wind farms off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Salazar said the federal government is now soliciting formal requests from wind-power developers seeking permission to build in federal waters between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard.

Leases could be awarded as early as 2012, said Salazar, although any construction is still at least three years away. He called the news "another major milestone in the development of offshore wind power in America." No such installation has been built yet.

"This could not have happened without the great leadership of Rhode Island and Massachusetts," said Salazar, flanked by Governor Chafee and members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation on the shore of Quonset Point.

The two states formally agreed in December to be partners in developing wind farms in an area that mirrors the 285-square-mile zone that Wednesday's announcement concerned.

Rhode Island officials hailed the news as a way to promote renewable energy sources, protect the environment... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

NORTH KINGSTOWN - With a sparkling Narragansett Bay as a backdrop, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced a major step forward Wednesday in developing wind farms off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Salazar said the federal government is now soliciting formal requests from wind-power developers seeking permission to build in federal waters between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard.

Leases could be awarded as early as 2012, said Salazar, although any construction is still at least three years away. He called the news "another major milestone in the development of offshore wind power in America." No such installation has been built yet.

"This could not have happened without the great leadership of Rhode Island and Massachusetts," said Salazar, flanked by Governor Chafee and members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation on the shore of Quonset Point.

The two states formally agreed in December to be partners in developing wind farms in an area that mirrors the 285-square-mile zone that Wednesday's announcement concerned.

Rhode Island officials hailed the news as a way to promote renewable energy sources, protect the environment and create jobs. They envision Quonset Point, the former Navy installation, serving as a staging area where hundreds of wind turbines would be assembled and placed on barges to be shipped offshore.

Developers have 45 days to respond to the "Call for Information and Nominations" published on Wednesday in the Federal Register. An environmental assessment of wind farm projects in the area will take place during the same period. Anyone from the public - fishermen, environmentalists and other citizens -can submit comments on both processes to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

Wind farm development has been progressing on several fronts in Rhode Island in recent years.

Even before Salazar's announcement, two companies had submitted unsolicited proposals to the federal government.

The first, and better known project, is Deepwater Wind's. The Rhode Island-based company wants to erect 200 wind turbines, with a 1,000-megawatt capacity in waters south of Sakonnet Point between Block Island to the west and Martha's Vineyard to the northeast.

It would be supported by a sprawling undersea transmission network that would allow power to be sold from Massachusetts to New York.

Deepwater has proposed first building another much smaller farm - about five to eight turbines - three miles southeast of Block Island. Last year, National Grid signed a 20-year agreement to buy power from this farm. Deepwater has 100 acres at Quonset under a lease option.

The lesser-known project, proposed by Neptune Wind, of Massachusetts, calls for 120 turbines, with a 360-megawatt capacity.

Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater's chief administrative officer, attended the news conference and said afterward that his company was pleased that it could move forward by reapplying under the new process.

"It's great news," he said. "It's a huge development for the industry and Rhode Island as well."

Rhode Island is well positioned for wind power in another way, Salazar noted, because the state has already created a maritime Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) that designates waters off the coast that are suitable for wind farms. The zone has become a model for other states and cost nearly $10 million to develop.

Still, wind power projects have plenty of hurdles to clear before the first turbine goes up.

Developers that answer the "Call" must be determined to be qualified to undertake the projects. Meanwhile, the environmental assessment could take between 6 and 15 months to complete. Then, upon the awarding of a lease, a developer must submit detailed plans. These will then become the subject of an environmental impact statement, which can take from one to two years to complete.

Grybowski doesn't anticipate any construction taking place until at least 2014. And that's just the assembly work that would take place on land. Actual installation of the turbines probably won't take place until 2016 to 2107, he said.

But there was little talk on Wednesday about the years of review that await any proposal. Instead, officials praised the beginning of the process and how it is "moving quickly," in Salazar's words, in Rhode Island.

U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse said that Rhode Island officials are pleased to hear the state will get "credit" for the planning already completed here "so we can move rapidly through the Call process and rapidly through the environmental assessment process, to a point where here, on this facility, large turbines are being assembled not only to be built offshore and provide clean energy to Rhode Island, but to make this an assembly point for wind turbines and for offshore energy that can serve the larger Atlantic seaboard."


Source: http://www.projo.com/news/e...

AUG 18 2011
http://www.windaction.org/posts/31688-u-s-seeks-proposals-for-wind-farms-off-r-i-mass
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