Articles filed under Offshore Wind from Rhode Island
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Massachusetts and Rhode Island have announced offshore wind projects aimed at delivering a combined 1,200 megawatts of energy, enough to power 400,000 homes.
That Block Island price, which started at 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour and is escalating at 3.5 percent a year, is significantly higher than the price National Grid pays for power from fossil fuel-burning generators and other conventional sources. It is, however, competitive with other renewable energy projects that have been developed in Rhode Island. It is unclear whether Vineyard Wind’s price is lower than the price from the Deepwater project.
Many fisherpeople see a future where segments of their industry will ultimately disappear unless the federal government ensures their concerns are taken into account in the construction and development of wind farms. Fisherpeople’s fears include the incompatibility of certain types of fishing gear with the clustered placement of wind turbines and a lack of site-specific research regarding economic and ecological impacts of the turbines.
“Squid, flounders, scallops and other species need sandy bottom without structure to thrive,” she said. “So, the turbine bases not only destroy their habitat, but also introduce an entirely different ecosystem that attracts species that didn’t aggregate in the area before.”
“Newport residents, as well as residents of other Communities, have received new electric and gas bills that are giving them anxiety and sticker shock due to huge increases; And... the new distribution charges are increasing bills by huge percentages and are compromising residents’ ability to pay necessary life expenses for rent, food, medical needs; And... the RI PUC’s decision to put the significant increase in renewable power costs from off-shore wind and net-metering into the Distribution charge and not the Power Charge so that consumers cannot opt to purchase equivalent power from outside Rhode Island as provided by law...”