Articles from Rhode Island
In the months leading up to this week's PUC decision, Block Island residents have debated the merits of the proposed wind farm, focusing both on finances and aesthetics. Residents have weighed the pros and cons of eight wind turbines within three miles of Block Island.
Opposition rose at the end of the legislative session when Carcieri and legislative leaders drafted the bill that sent a new power-purchase agreement back to the PUC with so many restrictions, some said the commissioners would have no choice but to approve it.
Well before Jamestown residents vote on a referendum to fund a Taylor Point wind turbine, the town plans to present them with an updated picture of the potential impacts on the town and its balance sheet.
A proposed offshore wind farm took a major step forward Wednesday with the approval of a key contract between National Grid and developer Deepwater Wind. But R.I. Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch vowed to appeal the decision, calling it a "sweetheart deal."
A new wind farm off Block Island could jump-start Rhode Island's economy and make it a national leader for using renewable energy. Or it could be a risky venture that actually thwarts economic development by unnecessarily hiking local electric rates.
"The project will result in higher costs of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses and will serve as a negative factor in retaining and attracting businesses," Mazze said in his prepared testimony. "To businesses, there are no economic benefits to this project. Rhode Island could realize greater economic benefit by investing in energy efficiency which could support lower-cost renewable energy at a reasonable price."
McCullough said he found the prices in the contract are significantly higher than prices for similar projects either under way or recently completed in Europe. "The cost figures give the appearance of being reverse-engineered from a required rate of return rather than derived from basic engineering estimates. The rate of return seems high with any reasonable level of leverage, and due diligence by the purchaser was lacking.
Tuesday was the fourth day of hearings on Deepwater Wind's proposal to build six to eight wind turbines three miles off of Block Island. At the hearing, Germani and PUC member Paul Roberti questioned why National Grid had abandoned its role as advocate for lower utility prices. National Grid lawyer Ronald Gerwatowski answered that at no point in lengthy legal proceedings had the utility stated a position on the wind project's wider economic impact.
Governor Carcieri and the state's legislative leaders put more pressure Monday on the state's Public Utilities Commission to approve a power-purchase agreement to pave the way for a $205-million wind farm to serve Block Island ...The commission remains committed to announcing a decision on Aug. 11, just within the deadline mandated by the General Assembly.
Attorney Michael McElroy, representing two of Rhode Island's largest manufacturers, persistently questioned Deepwater CEO William Moore to show that the cost and projected profit were understated for the company's proposed wind farm three miles off Block Island.
On Tuesday, Shigeru Osada, senior vice president of engineering and maintenance of Toray Plastics, which employs 600 people in Rhode Island where it manufactures thin, high technology film for industrial applications, testified that over the 20 years of the Block Island wind farm project, Toray would have to pay an additional $7.3 million in fees to National Grid.
The R.I. Economic Development Corporation said Thursday that its study of the economic impact of an offshore wind farm looked only at the positives. Asked by Toray Plastics (America) Inc. if the study factored in potential negative effects of the farm's above-market electric rates, the EDC replied, simply, "No."
The state Public Utilities Commission will not rule on the latest motion to dismiss a case for a power-purchase agreement between offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind and National Grid until the final day of proceedings, Aug. 11. The commission held a hearing Tuesday morning on the motion from TransCanada Power, a Canadian energy company that says it can provide Rhode Island with renewable power at a far cheaper price than Deepwater.
TransCanada argues that the Rhode Island law governing renewable-power contracts violates the Commerce Clause in the U.S. Constitution because it favors in-state projects. The law, enacted a year ago, discriminates against out-of-state energy producers and thereby restricts interstate commerce, says TransCanada.
Outside the hearing room, Lynch said that for someone of Mazze's stature to testify "so eloquently how bad this project is for Rhode Island confirms that my position [opposing the wind farm contract] is the appropriate one for Rhode Island citizens." Lynch also referred to a cable to deliver electricity to Block Island, which is part of the proposed eight-turbine project.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island will jointly explore the development of offshore wind power in federal waters near the two states, according to an agreement announced Monday by the states' governors.
On Wednesday, the three-member commission heard arguments for dismissal. While both entities contend that the law calling upon the PUC to weigh the new contract violated the U.S. Constitution, they concentrated on other arguments, including that it was unlawful to reconsider a contract once a decision had already been rendered.
"Block Island is most at-risk with this project," said Michael Hickey. ...Nobody has more to lose than Block Island if this project does not work out as planned." He and others say the price of wind power has been inflated to cover any risk Deepwater is exposed to. "I also object to the fact that the ratepayers of Rhode Island are being asked to subsidize this experiment," said John Hopf.
The PUC will begin formal hearings on the new Power Purchase Agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid next week. While there was virtual agreement among the speakers that the island urgently needed relief from its current electricity rates, there were divergent views about how to get there.
The R.I. Public Utilities Commission made no decision Wednesday whether to stop hearings on a proposed offshore wind farm. Instead, the commission said it would determine whether to dismiss the case after the entire case wraps up Aug. 11.