Articles from Rhode Island
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."
A group of seven wind turbines in Johnston was just turned on in January, yet they’re already causing some blowback from neighbors across the city line in Cranston. "It's a little unnerving that all of a sudden, 519-foot structures can end up right near your home, and no one knows anything,” said Renee Petrone, who lives in the Alpine Estates neighborhood of Cranston and can clearly see the turbines from her home.
The first utility-scale wind farm proposed for U.S. waters will face a crucial vote in Rhode Island as fishermen’s groups threaten to block the project. Today, the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) is expected to decide whether to certify the 84-turbine Vineyard Wind proposal as consistent with state policies that govern the shared use of the ocean.
Two weeks ago the Fishermen’s Advisory Board (FAB) received a financial compensation offer from Vineyard Wind for the disruption the 84-turbine facility would have on commercial fishing grounds. With money from Vineyard Wind, the FAB hired an economist to study the offer and an attorney to help with legal issues, and now both parties want more time to review and negotiate.
Cranston isn’t the only Rhode Island community concerned about the impacts of siting wind turbines close to neighborhoods. Some residents of Coventry have complained of shadow flicker and noise from the 10 414-foot-tall turbines in their rural village of Greene. They say the utility-scale facility isn’t consistent with the town’s comprehensive plan and has dramatically changed the village’s long-established characteristics.
Dellinger, a lobsterman, had said in December that “the industry doesn’t want a mitigation strategy.” “The whole process needs to slow down,” he said. “We’re in such a rush.” Among the points of contention is Vineyard Wind’s planned layout. Commercial fishermen want an east-west grid pattern but Vineyard Wind currently has a northeast-to-southwest grid plan.
Fishermen and council staff tried to convince Vineyard Wind to widen spacing between its turbines and change their configuration to align with industry-standard fishing lanes in the area, but the company argued that its tight schedule for construction prevented such changes. With the sides deadlocked, talk turned to mitigation.
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.