Environment
6:51 am
Wed May 14, 2014

CRMC Unanimously Approves Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind Farm

Rhode Island is one step closer to having its first offshore wind farm. Last night, the Coastal Resources Management Council unanimously approved Deepwater Wind’s proposed wind farm three miles off the coast of Block Island.

The 30-megawatt wind farm with five turbines will produce enough energy to power 17,000 homes each year, according to Deepwater Wind estimates.

CRMC Executive Director Grover Fugate said the approval vote is “historic.” It’s the first time the CRMC grants a permit to build an ocean wind farm.

“It’s a vote to approve a renewable energy project, which could be the very first one marine waters in the United States,” said Fugate. “If we can start this process going and start to show that it’s feasible, that it can be done with little environmental impact, I think we have a tremendous potential here for renewable energy here in our offshore waters.”

Fugate noted 28 coastal states consume nearly 80 percent of electricity in this country. He said the Block Island Wind Farm presents an opportunity to offset that consumption in the state. The wind farm would lower the cost of electricity on Block Island, which has among the highest energy rates in the nation.

CRMC's permit approval comes with stipulations. Fugate said Deepwater Wind has agreed to protect birds, endangered species, even people, such as fishermen. He said they’ve agreed to protect the state, too.

“...In case there was a storm that took these structures down, that we would have the financial resources to go back and remove that if necessary," said Fugate. "So we tried to build in all the protections that we can for this state and the natural resources and the human users of that offshore environment.”

Council member Tony Affigne said the CRMC and its subcommittees typically disagree a lot when reviewing such complex projects. 

“In this case, the evidence was so persuasive; the material we were provided was so clear, and so unequivocal,” said Affigne. “The subcommittee, which read everything, and brought a recommendation to the council, actually approved the recommendation unanimously. That’s somewhat unusual. It’s striking. And it’s an indication that the company did its homework, and provided us with all of the information that we needed.”

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said securing this vote from the state’s lead permitting agency is a major step forward for the project.

“Rhode Island and CRMC have been working on a process for a long time to consider wind farms planned in state waters, and this is the culmination of years and years of work,” said Grybowski. “So we are extremely excited about the result.”

Deepwater Wind recently acquired water quality certificates and wetland permits from the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management. The company still has to secure permits from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Construction of the turbines has already begun. The company plans to install the turbines starting next summer.