Articles from Rhode Island
Less than three weeks before Rhode Island coastal regulators are set to vote on a key approval for its $2-billion offshore wind farm, Vineyard Wind has yet to come forward with a compensation package for the state’s commercial fishermen who say that the layout of the company’s 84 turbines will block access to valuable Atlantic Ocean fishing grounds.
The recent record-breaking auction of development rights for offshore wind-energy installations off the coast of southern New England proves that developers are confident that obstacles to their construction and operation will likely be few. But after just two years of operation of the nation’s first offshore wind facility — the much-heralded Block Island Wind Farm — there is still a great deal unknown about their long-term environmental impact.
“I see five unobstructed, 519-foot turbines from any window along the back of my home and from every part of my entire backyard,” one resident said Monday night during a City Council meeting at City Hall.
Although the wind farm would be built in federal waters and supply power to Massachusetts, Rhode Island has the latitude to effectively veto it. By law, development in federal waters cannot interfere with a state’s coastal activities, such as fishing, and must comply with state regulations.
Rhode Island coastal regulators granted Vineyard Wind a stay in permitting proceedings on Tuesday, giving the New Bedford company another two months to reach agreement with fishermen who say they would lose access to valuable fishing grounds in the waters where 84 wind turbines would be installed.
At issue is the layout of the project. Fishermen want wide corridors, specifically a mile or wider oriented east to west. Current plans offer two 1-mile corridors, with only one running east to west. As an alternative, Vineyard Wind proposed using larger turbines with nearly 10 megawatts of capacity, thereby reducing the number of towers ...but pose risk to the project because they haven’t received design certification.
The Fishermen’s Advisory Board, which advises the Coastal Resources Management Council on fishing issues related to offshore wind, voted unanimously Monday to deny its support out of fear that the layout of the project’s 84 towering wind turbines in Rhode Island Sound would close off fishing grounds that are considered some of the most productive for the state’s commercial fleet.
Although its projects are helping to reduce energy costs for municipalities and other public entities, have won contracts through the state, and been embraced by people like Johnston Mayor Joseph Polisena, they have not been universally welcomed. Some residents of Coventry in particular have complained of shadow flicker and noise and objected to the visual impact of the 414-foot-tall turbines in a largely rural part of that community.
Deepwater, which submitted its bid before the name change took effect, is proposing two options: a 100-megawatt project or a 350-megawatt alternative. Vineyard, too, has put forward a choice, between a 200-megawatt project and one of 350 megawatts.
In the summer, Aripotch patrols for squid and weakfish in the area where the 15 South Fork wind turbines and others wind projects are planned. He expects the wind facilities and undersea cables will shrink fishing grounds along the Eastern Seaboard. “If you put 2,000 wind turbines from the Nantucket Shoals to New York City, I’m losing 50 to 60 percent of my fishing grounds,” Aripotch said during a Nov. 8 public hearing at the Narragansett Community Center.
Danish energy business Orsted has entered into an agreement with the U.S.-based D.E. Shaw Group to buy a 100 percent equity interest in its offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind.
The most surprising result of the acoustic monitoring of the wind farm construction was the intensity of the vibrations felt in the seabed from the pile driving. “The impact on the animals on the seabed is potentially worse than for those in the water column,” Miller said. “It may have had an effect on nearby bottom-dwelling organisms like flounder and lobsters, which have a huge economic value in the state. But we’re still trying to understand what that effect may be.
At a recent joint meeting with CRMC’s Fishermen’s Advisory Board and Habitat Advisory Board, fishermen said the cables can harm fishing gear. They said the electrical voltage may cause sharks to bite the cables, while the voltage may slow fish and disrupt the food chain. The fishermen also wanted assurances that Deepwater Wind wouldn’t abandon the wind farms’ cables, towers, and foundations after they exceed their use in 20 years or so.
“This fall we plan on installing additional sleeving over another section of cable to protect it from potential damage from a stray anchor or other heavy object. We will be meeting with the Coastal Resources Management Council and Deepwater Wind [on Thursday, Aug. 9] to discuss the current situation and explore other options. We will keep the town and other officials updated accordingly.”
The sea2shore transmission cable, installed by National Grid as part of the Block Island Wind Farm project, can now be seen about 25 feet from Town Beach at low tide. ...Deepwater Wind and National Grid expressed that they are going to send a diver out for a visual confirmation immediately, and obtain a more detailed survey of the area, and are reaching out to their international contacts that might have experience with an exposed cable.”
Deepwater is set to embark on a study that could last a month or more to determine the underwater geology of 256 square miles of Rhode Island Sound about 18 miles southeast of Block Island. There, in waters that it’s leasing from the federal government, the Providence-based company plans to install dozens and dozens of wind turbines.
Judge Brian Van Couyghen reversed the board’s approval of a special-use permit for the 2.9-megawatt solar photovoltaic farm on 8 acres finding that it represented a manufacturing use that is not allowed in residential zones. Van Couyghen cited a previous case in which the state Supreme Court found that wind turbines represented a manufacturer because they are used for the sole purpose of transforming raw materials, “namely wind — into a finished product — namely electricity.”
During the meeting last Thursday of the Fishermen’s Advisory Board, which advises the council on fishing issues related to offshore wind, Rhode Island fishermen complained that Vineyard Wind never took their needs into account when designing the wind farm. Over three hours of back and forth that at points grew heated, they repeatedly said that the orientation of the wind farm and the spacing of the turbines would make it nearly impossible for them to fish within its boundaries.
Rhode Island fishermen say a patch of the Atlantic Ocean south of Martha’s Vineyard is among the best places around to catch squid. They are also the same waters in which a developer selected by Massachusetts plans to install up to 100 giant wind turbines that would supply clean, renewable energy to the state.
The representatives are renewing their calls for a study commission in light of Deepwater Wind’s recent announcement of plans to expand the offshore wind farm off the Rhode Island coast.