Library from Rhode Island
Doug Christel, a fishing policy analyst at NOAA, responded a week later. The federal agency had not been closely tracking the state process but had discussed Lapp's concerns, he said. "Similar to some of your comments, we feel the DEIS [draft environmental impact statement] underestimates landings from within the WDA," he wrote, referring to the wind development area leased by Vineyard Wind from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Three months after the Zoning Board unanimously rejected a plan to build a wind turbine at 810 Old Smithfield Road, the developer is back with a new plan for the property, this time to construct a solar farm.
Several residents took advantage of the public forum during Monday’s Town Council meeting to question the mandate of the Conservation Commission and the involvement of its chairman, Harvey Buford, in advocating the installation of industrial wind turbines in the town.
This segment highlights the impacts and risks of constructing wind turbines along the US eastern coast.
Little is known about how marine life will respond to the electromagnetic fields emanating from the spiderweb of cables carrying electricity from the Block Island Wind Farm and the many other offshore wind-power installations planned for the East Coast. But a new series of studies by a team of oceanographers at the University of Rhode Island suggests that some organisms will definitely be impacted.
Glander went on to write that the Coast Guard may make the same recommendation for Vineyard Wind that it did for the Block Island Wind Farm, a research analysis indicating whether the turbines “produce radar reflections, blind spots, shadow areas, or other effects that could adversely impact safety of navigation.” If there are negative impacts to marine radar, Glander wrote, Vineyard Wind should recommend how to remedy them. If such remedies are necessary, he wrote they should be “funded by Vineyard Wind.”
Despite the fact the project was denied, DePasquale began prepping the two properties for the installation of solar arrays anyway. In early June, the Department of Planning & Development issued a cease-and-desist order for DePasquale’s unauthorized solar installation. A week later, on June 10, the town issued a finalized order, requiring that DePasquale remove all pilings and cease all work on the property except for seeding, loaming, and related landscape clean-up activities.
The amendment was proposed by Town Council member Sylvia Thompson, who asked the Planning Board to provide an advisory opinion on the matter to the council. Thompson said there was insufficient information on the possible effects of large wind turbines. “There’s just too many unknowns for the town to move forward on this, I believe. Let’s not allow any in town until we fully understand all the ramifications.”
Vineyard Wind already agreed to a nearly $17 million mitigation package in Rhode Island. But it doesn’t look like that will be enough. The fishing industry still has many issues. For example, the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association is worried about the effect these giant towers could have on boat radar, and the impediments that transmission cables could cause.
Locally, Massachusetts and Rhode Island commercial and recreation fishermen continue to be concerned about the lack of habitat and fish studies before development starts in wind farm lease areas.
Najarian also criticized the company’s defense of the shadow flicker, disagreeing with the argument that a projected 10 hours of flicker per year for some neighbors fell well within an industry standard that considers up to 30 hours an acceptable amount. “Why should an abutting resident be expected to find one minute of flicker acceptable, never mind 10 hours?” he said.
The Department of Planning & Development recently issued a cease-and-desist order to an unauthorized solar installation off Carr’s Trail. The June 4 notice issued to 394 Carr’s Realty LLC and WED Coventry Seven LLC — a subsidiary of North Kingstown-based Green Development LLC, formerly Wind Energy Development LLC, founded by Mark DePasquale — claims a recent site inspection by two members of the Department of Planning & Development found “hundreds of piles had been driven into the ground commencing construction of a proposed solar generating facility that had been denied development plan approval by the Coventry Planning Commission” two years ago.
Although the three commission members all voted to approve the agreement, they each acknowledged the risks associated with the wind farm and the uncertainties surrounding the benefits to electric customers. If the price of certificates representing the environmental benefits of renewable energy fails to increase as projected, then the contract could cost consumers in the long run, said commissioner Abigail Anthony. Additionally, much of the savings are expected to come on windy winter days when the wind farm is expected to displace more expensive oil generators or natural gas-burning plants that may charge a premium. If those savings are lower, the net benefits may be too, Anthony said.
In addition to the company, board members heard from residents, including Nicole Valliere, who purchased the house immediately next door to the Pacheco property for $925,000 in March. Valliere told board members she was not aware of the turbine plans until after the sale closed and would never have purchased the property if the information was available. “We had no idea this was happening,” she said. “We never, ever, ever would’ve purchased our home.”
National Grid Rhode Island, the state’s main electricity distributor, is seeking the commission’s approval of its contract with Orsted US Offshore Wind to supply 400 megawatts of electricity from its Revolution Wind project in federal waters off the Rhode Island coast. The estimated cost of the project is about $1 billion.
At 462.5 feet, the proposed wind turbine is about 430 feet taller than the maximum 35-foot height currently allowed by the town zoning ordinance, so the developer will have to seek a dimensional variance in order to move forward to the next stage of the application. The developer also needs a special use permit to construct a wind turbine in a residential agricultural district.
The Cranston City Council says it will not pursue legal action over new wind turbines in neighboring Johnston.
Lanny Dellinger, chairman of the Fishermen’s Advisory Board (FAB), and Grover Fugate, executive director of the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), admitted that Vineyard Wind had the leverage in negotiations and that agreeing to a slightly improved compensation offer is better than no deal at all.
In a unanimous vote at the special meeting, the Fishermen’s Advisory Board accepted the new offer that includes $4.2 million in payments over 30 years for direct impacts to commercial fishermen from Vineyard Wind’s 84-turbine wind farm proposed in Rhode Island Sound, as well as the creation of a $12.5-million trust set up over five years that could be used to cover additional costs to fishermen resulting from the project.
Rich Fuka, spokesperson for the Rhode Island Fishermen's Alliance, when asked how to balance out the need for renewable energy versus the needs of the fishing industry in Rhode Island, responded by saying, "That's my favorite question. You let the real players, real stakeholders, sit at the table and say, “Look, here's what we have for a fishing industry. Can you move those windmills out further across from the squid stocks?' The answer is: it's not cost effective."