Library from Rhode Island
Wind farm developers, show us your plans. That's the message Governor Carcieri sent yesterday to private developers who may be interested in building a massive offshore wind farm that would generate at least 15 percent of the electricity consumed throughout Rhode Island -- about 1.3 million megawatts of power a year. At a State House news conference yesterday afternoon, Carcieri announced that the state has begun a formal request for proposals process, in which it seeks a partner in the private sector who would construct, finance and operate the wind farm.
Such a project would require an estimated 105 wind turbines, making it about the size of the proposed Cape Wind project off Cape Cod. The proposal would meet Carcieri's goal of securing 15 percent of the state's energy needs through clean-energy sources. But questions remained after his 1 p.m. news conference about the cost of the project and its time-frame. ...The governor's plan appears at odds with a proposal by the staff of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council - the state agency charged with permitting projects in state waters - for a one-year moratorium on development proposals.
It will take $6.6 million and three years to develop a permitting process for offshore wind and wave farms, said scientists from the University of Rhode Island in a presentation to state coastal officials March 11. The presentation was part of Coastal Resources Management Council's effort to establish rules for renewable energy projects in state waters. The council is pairing with URI in the process. All offshore projects have been put on hold until the new rules are in place. Although meteorological towers to collect data will be allowed before the process is complete, under the suggested framework it will still be another year until the state allows them to be placed offshore.
The fate of a handful of energy bills lawmakers are debating at the State House will shape Rhode Island's energy future, determining what technologies get built, how much it will cost the state's ratepayers and, to a great extent, who gets to decide. ...The bill that would potentially have the biggest impact would require National Grid to enter into long-term contracts to buy renewable energy from developers of large-scale clean-energy projects. ...Perhaps most crucially, the bill would give National Grid discretion to decide what renewable- energy sources are "commercially reasonable" - essentially handing over to the utility the power to set policy about which forms of renewable energy go forward in Rhode Island, Dzykewicz said. Carcieri hopes to rework language in the bill to address those concerns.
A New York-based investment firm that caught state officials off guard last fall with a proposal to build up to 338 wind turbines in Rhode Island waters now says it wants to pay for a meteorological tower needed to draft zoning regulations for development of a wind farm. The proposal was made public last week at a hearing during which R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council - the state agency that regulates Rhode Island's waters voted unanimously to put off a decision about placing a one-year moratorium on all offshore alternative energy projects, something the agency's staff proposed following the New York firm's surprise wind-farm application. ...Gov. Donald L. Carcieri's ambitious goal to produce a minimum of 15 percent of Rhode Island's energy needs through the development of wind-, wave- and solar-energy sources by 2011 is almost certainly not going to happen.
In an effort to create ground rules as well as to determine what state waters would best serve potential wind farms, the Coastal Resources Management Council will vote next week on a proposed year-long moratorium on alternative energy projects in state waters. The move would place a "one-year moratorium on all renewable energy proposals in the state's territorial waters pending the development of an ocean special area management plan, or SAMP," reads the agency's notice on its website. According to CRMC spokeswoman Laura Ricketson-Dwyer, coastal is acting because "there is no specific section of our Redbook [regulation manual] that addresses wind farms."
State and regional regulators acknowledge the hurdles - especially in northern New Hampshire - but don't have ready solutions. A bill before the New Hampshire Senate would have the state be ready to act if no regional solution is forthcoming. ISO New England, which manages power for the region, is considering changing rules so more of the costs of transmission upgrades could be shared regionally. But as things stand now, backers of projects generally must pay for upgrades needed to connect them to the system. "None of this is a real speedy process," acknowledges Michael Harrington, senior regional policy adviser for the state Public Utilities Commission.
Senate leaders banded for the second time in a week to unveil bipartisan legislation, this time aimed at increasing the development and use of renewable energy throughout the state. ...the bill could fix a problem holding back green energy projects here: a lack of big buyers. Before building an offshore wind farm, for example, developers must convince potential investors that a major customer with money will buy the power over a long period. Lawmakers want National Grid, the state's dominant electricity distributor, to fill the role. The company supports the bill. ...The bill would excuse National Grid from signing contracts it considers "commercially unreasonable," a term that lawmakers defined only vaguely. Ryan said he could not say what contracts National Grid might reject without seeing a specific developer proposal.
Two of Rhode Island's most active environmental groups have come out against a proposal by the staff of the R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council to put a one-year moratorium on applications from developers to build wind- and wave-energy projects in state waters. Grover Fugate, the CRMC's executive director, has said implementing a moratorium would enable the state agency responsible for regulating Rhode Island's waters and coastline to avoid the risk of costly, drawn-out political battles over wind farm proposals - similar to the decade-old effort by developer Cape Wind Associates to build a wind farm in Massachusetts' Nantucket Sound - while drafting zoning regulations for offshore energy projects here.
The agency that regulates Rhode Island's coastline has proposed a one-year moratorium on wind farms and wave generators in the state's coastal waters so it can develop a special management plan that will determine where such projects will be allowed. Governor Carcieri and two environmental groups are opposing the moratorium. Yesterday, Jeff Neal, Carcieri's spokesman, said he's concerned the decision will slow the state's progress toward developing renewable energy sources. A moratorium, he said, would also send the wrong signal and might scare off potential proposals. "Governor Carcieri wants to remain out front developing wind and wave energy sources," Neal said. "He doesn't believe a moratorium will be helpful."
The R.I. Coastal Resources Management Council wants to place a one-year moratorium on all renewable-energy proposals in state waters, during which the agency will determine suitable locations for offshore wind farms and draft regulations for the projects. The proposal pits the agency responsible for regulating Rhode Island's waters against Gov. Donald L. Carcieri, who believes the moratorium would unnecessarily delay the development of renewable-energy sources in the state. ..."Our concern was, all it takes when you are in the process of doing this is one stupid application to pop its head up that goes in an area where it just doesn't make sense to have this," Fugate told Providence Business News. "And then when the next one comes along people say, ‘That's ridiculous, we don't need this in this state!' You can literally kill an industry on a couple of stupid applications."
Allco Renewable Energy Group is interested in erecting test towers at four sites to determine whether the amount, consistency and direction of winds is enough for one or more wind farms comprised of 250 to 350 turbines each. One of the four sites, all in waters governed by the state, is off Napatree Point near the Watch Hill section of Westerly, while another is off the south shore of Block Island. The other two are off Little Compton, in the eastern part of the state. Allco announced its interest this fall, following initiatives by the administration of Gov. Donald Carcieri to foster the development of wind power projects that could produce up to 15 percent of the state's energy needs.
...Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri's pledge nearly two years ago to bring wind power to a state where there is just one operating wind turbine. His goal was to get 15% of the state's electrical power from wind by 2011 - which would require about 100 turbines. Several major challenges now stand in the way of the small state's big plans. Among them: No one has decided where to put a wind farm, it's not clear how the project will be paid for, and public opposition - a major wild card - is unknown, according to Carcieri's top energy adviser, Andrew Dzykewicz. ...No other state has built an offshore wind farm, forcing Rhode Island's government to invent the process nearly from scratch. One of the state's main environmental regulatory bodies, the Coastal Resources Management Council, has not even decided what it requires from prospective wind power developers.
A New York wind energy company is asking a state agency to let it install four meteorological masts in waters off Block Island, Little Compton and Fishers Island to collect wind data in preparation for building offshore wind farms at some or all of the sites. But despite Governor Donald Carcieri's commitment to establishing offshore wind farms, state officials have so far expressed doubt about Allco Renewable Energy Group's application, saying it doesn't fit the model the state is developing for renewable energy projects. And the coastal agency that deals with offshore permit applications says it doesn't know when it will be ready to make a decision on Allco's application.
The top executive of a Warren-based wind-turbine blade maker said the decision to build a new manufacturing facility in Iowa, rather than in Rhode Island, was based on that state's proximity to the market in which the blades will be used. The blades made by TPI Composites are typically 35 meters to 40 meters long, and can weigh 10,000 to 20,000 pounds each, said Steven C. Lockard, chief executive officer of the company. Transportation costs for these blades, which are typically shipped by truck, can run into the "tens of thousands" of dollars, he said in a telephone interview Wednesday. "In this case, there really wasn't an option for this particular factory to be located in Rhode Island," he said.
Gov. Don Carcieri pledged nearly two years ago to bring wind power to a state where there is just one operating wind turbine. His goal was to get 15 percent of the state's electrical power from wind by 2011 -- which would require about 100 turbines. That goal now seems unlikely because no one has decided where to put a wind farm, it's not clear how the project will be paid for and public opposition -- a major wild card -- is unknown, according to Carcieri's top energy adviser, Andrew Dzykewicz.
Two top executives of Allco Renewable Energy Group Limited - Thomas Melone, president, and Gordon Alter, senior vice president - met with state energy coordinator Andrew Dzykewicz last week to try to answer concerns Dzykewicz raised when the company's plans to install 235 to 338 wind turbines became public two weeks ago. Both sides said the meeting was cordial, but they don't appear to agree on how Rhode Island should develop its potential coastal wind energy.
In a release, Allco Renewable, a New York based renewable energy investment firm, said it submitted eight preliminary permit applications to the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) on September 21. The company proposed to install up to 338 wind turbines at the four sites - one south of Block Island, two south of Little Compton in Rhode Island Sound and one east of Fishers Island. ...If all goes well, Wavle said construction could start in the first quarter of 2009 with commercial operation a year later at a cost of $1 billion to $2 billion.
Allco Renewable Energy Group made official its plans to develop up to four offshore wind projects in Rhode Island at sites including two south of Little Compton. Although it filed preliminary applications with the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council on Nov. 21, the firm did not publicly announce its intentions until Monday, Nov. 26. ...Four of the permit applications submitted to the CRMC request permission to place meteorological masts in four of the offshore districts identified in the governor's wind siting study. The masts would analyze winds strengths for at least a year and a half before. The other four permit applications submitted relate to the actual building of wind projects in each of those areas.
Word that a New York firm hopes to build 50 to as many as 84 wind turbines in waters a short distance south of Little Compton has prompted questions and concerns here. Allco Renewable Energy Group Ltd. filed preliminary papers with the state coastal Resources Management Council in late September in which it outlined a proposal to erect perhaps as many as 335 turbines at four Rhode Island coastal sites. Other sites include waters off Sachuest Point and Second Beach in Middletown (85 to 120 turbines in up to 9 square miles of water); just south of Block Island (50 to 84 turbines in up to 6.5 square miles of water); and 50 turbines off Westerly.