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Opponents and supporters of the Deepwater Wind's proposed five-turbine wind farm off Block Island had a chance to air their arguments before the R.I. Department of Environmental Management (DEM) Wednesday during one of two public hearings being sponsored by the state permitting agency. The second public hearing will be held Wednesday, May 8, from 5 to 8 p.m. at New Shoreham Town Hall.
Nearly 100 people came out Wednesday night to speak out on Deepwater Wind's $250-million proposal to install five wind turbines in state waters off Block Island and connect them to the mainland through an underwater transmission line.
“The project proposed by Deepwater Wind is extremely complicated and the short-term and/or long-term impact of that project on the town of Narragansett is unclear,” Mannix said in his motion. “The reason I put in a motion is to make sure we get a complete vetting of information,” Mannix said last week.
Councilman Matthew Mannix has asked the Town Council to consider suspending negotiations with Deepwater Wind until July 1. Mannix submitted the motion to the Town Clerk's office earlier this week...Mannix cited the complexity of the project and its "unclear" impacts on the town.
Several Block Island residents attended the meeting to voice their opposition to the project, including Town Councilors Sean McGarry and Chris Warfel. "The cheapest option is for Block Island to develop its own power," Warfel said. "I ask Narragansett not to allow itself to be manipulated like Block Island has."
In voting 4-to-1 against waiving the fee, members of the Ocean Special Area Management Plan Subcommittee said that the application fee was miniscule when compared to what taxpayers and the company has already invested in the 30-megawatt, five-turbine wind farm.
The 1.5-megawatt turbine was commissioned in March 2009. The turbine had a 20-year life expectancy, but was shutdown June 18, 2012, after an inspection showed significant wear to the gearbox. An independent investigation blamed the damage on a faulty design. The gearbox, however, was no longer covered by warranty.
EBEC was started with about $400,000 of seed money from the state Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and its wind farm project would have made millions through net metering. Net metering allows private energy companies to sell excess energy to National Grid at retail prices. "Why should we, if we could, make a profit on the backs of every single ratepayer in the whole state of Rhode Island."
Some call it an attractive energy source: renewable and sustainable. Others say wind energy is expensive and inconsistent, needing government subsidies to survive. James Hummel of the Hummel Report examines the questionable practices of the Rhode Island East Bay Energy Consortium - or EBEC.
Several key executives of offshore wind energy development companies have agreed to participate on a new advisory committee being formed by the city of New Bedford. Mayor Jon Mitchell made the announcement about the Offshore Wind Advisory Committee in mid-January, saying the committee will advise him on industry trends relating to the global supply chain for offshore wind.
"According to the DPUC, Rhode Island's ratepayers will be paying more than $400 million dollars in excess energy bills over the next 20 years with Deepwater's proposed plant ...That's more than 20 million dollars a year that Rhode Island ratepayers will be paying over the current market price. This is not in the best interest of Rhode Island, Block Island, or Narragansett, who's slated to be the landfall of the cable from the Deepwater Wind Farm."
Prior to a December 18 Town Council meeting devoted to the Deepwater Wind wind farm project, members of the Electric Utility Task Group met with New Shoreham Town Council members to address their questions around projected future costs for maintenance and decommissioning of the farm, perceived island benefits once the system is in place, and environmental considerations.
Several factors have played into this delay, explained Deepwater CEO Jeff Grybowski, including opposition to the project, particularly legal challenges by those on-island and upstate. And a lengthy permitting process with state and federal agencies - the company's current step - has required extensive research and reams of public documentation.
Nationally, demand for electricity is leveling off as residential power use falls, experts say, reversing a long upward trend. More efficient lighting and electric devices are partly credited for the change. New homes also are being built to use less electricity and government subsidies ...help older homes use less power. Rourke said the weak economy also has contributed to reduced electricity use.
In a lawsuit filed in Washington County Superior Court on Nov. 26, Whalerock Renewable Energy, LLC is seeking a judge's order to void a section of the town's zoning ordinances that allows the Planning Commission to approve or reject special use permit applications for large wind energy systems.
The Patrick administration placed the project's cost at $100 million and project proponents touted its potential to serve the offshore wind industry. In an interview Tuesday, Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan acknowledged Massachusetts and Rhode Island are competing for the Cape Wind jobs. Massachusetts was not looking to sweeten its infrastructure effort with loans or grants.
The East Bay Energy Consortium (EBEC) looks to rebound from a year that saw its proposed wind farm stall along with wind energy development across Rhode Island. Much of the consortium's future depends on Election Day outcomes.
The convoluted struggle over Whalerock Renewable Energy LLC's bid to construct wind turbines has been extended into November, this time by a Zoning Board dispute involving the notification of adjacent property owners.
Riggs said he is "looking now at taking the next step" in opposing the Block Island Wind Farm. "At least in court, we'll get an answer, but I estimate it could take up to nine months," Riggs said. "Then the loser can always appeal to the 1st Circuit."
The company is in the final stages of completing permits for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. The Army Corps permits are needed for any project that involves construction in navigable waters. The state permit is for leasing the submerged state lands.