Powered by wind!

Fri, 04/28/2017 - 10:15am
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When the blades of one of the Block Island Wind Farm’s turbines spin sometime a little before 6 a.m. on Monday, May 1, Block Island will become the first community in the U.S. powered by an offshore wind farm.

Eleven years ago that may have seemed like a farfetched idea. In 2006, then-former Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri put a plan in place to supply the state with renewable energy sources and develop large-scale offshore wind projects in the region. Now that plan is about to become a reality with the Block Island Wind Farm poised and ready to liberate Block Island from its dependency on diesel generated power.

For local officials, installation of the wind farm, and its attendant 20-mile long National Grid owned sea2shore cable, which connects Block Island to the mainland, has meant years of hard work. Some state and local officials told The Block Island Times that they are excited to know that Block Island will be powered by wind-generated energy — others not so much.

“I am really looking forward to May 1, when the island will be running on 100 percent wind-generated electricity,” said former First Warden Kim Gaffett. “And, simultaneously the diesel generators will be turned off. I hope the quiet will be deafening. Our new goal should be to become one of the last, great, green places.”

Former New Shoreham Town Manager Nancy Dodge said that, “energy (generated) from a wind farm was first proposed in 2006, but a cable connection to the mainland had been part of the dialogue for what seems forever. And Monday morning our diesel generators will shut down and it finally becomes reality. Kudos to all who played a part in this energy revolution for Block Island.”

First Warden Ken Lacoste said, “It’s exciting. The fruition of several years’ work will be evident Monday morning. The island and the state will be fed electricity from the country’s first offshore wind farm — the smallest state in the continental U.S. being the site of a significant step in the country’s history of energy production. It has been impressive to watch and be a small part of this project.”

Lacoste added: “No doubt it is seen by many as a bumpy road to this goal. But throughout history other large scale public and private engineering endeavors have had their share of trials and tribulations prior to their success. It is up to us now to make the most of what we have in terms of an eco-friendly energy source, a tap into the mainland grid to stabilize energy supply and pricing, and the side benefit of a fiber optic feed for us to use to significantly upgrade our deplorable broadband technology.”

Second Warden Norris Pike said, “The switch from diesel to offshore wind power is a monumental moment in our history, not only for Block Island, but the country as well. I’m confident that it will be beneficial to the island for many years to come, providing clean energy. Between the wind farm, and our purchase of the Block Island Power Company, we have set the stage for cutting edge technologies that will help us reduce our carbon footprint even more in the years to come, allowing further energy reductions as well.”

Gov. Gina Raimondo said, "Rhode Island has always led by example. We started America’s industrial revolution and built the first textile mill in the country. Now, as Block Island transitions to wind power, we’re leading again in the renewable revolution. I'm proud to be Governor of the only state with steel in the water and blades spinning over the ocean. Because of leadership and innovation in the renewable energy sector, we are putting Rhode Islanders back to work and Rhode Island back in the game."

“Since it went online in 2016, the Block Island Wind Farm has been leading the way as the country’s first offshore wind farm, and now we will see its potential realized as it powers Block Island,” said U.S. Congressman Jim Langevin, a founding member and energy task force chair of the House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition. “This is an exciting time for Rhode Island as our state continues to increase its role in the nationwide movement to build a cleaner, more sustainable energy infrastructure by reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.”

U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse said, “America’s first offshore wind farm is set to begin powering Block Island homes and businesses with clean, reliable energy ahead of the busy summer season. Rhode Island is well-positioned to capitalize on the growing clean energy industry thanks to the many partners who dedicated years of planning and outreach to make this wind farm a reality.”

Despite the seemingly ardent support for the project from officials, not everyone on the local level has been in favor of the wind farm. 

An opponent to the project, Rosemarie Ives, said, "Even though the goal of doing away with the island's use of diesel is laudable, the public process from the beginning has been pervasively corrupted both overtly and covertly. At the state level, this has been true with the governors, the legislature, departments and the court system. On the island, many promises were made to the public that were misleading and were never given the appropriate verification and analysis. It is not a surprise that the island is now faced with and will pay the price for huge cable and substation overruns, a cable at town beach emitting an electromagnetic field, an unfunded upgraded electricity distribution system, and totally unfunded broadband.” 

“I would like to see a spreadsheet with all actual numbers/costs published after the May 1 start,” said Ives. “Then we each can judge for ourselves the financial price we have paid for Deepwater. I believe that the island sold itself short when it allowed one of its most cherished views to be polluted with this industrial installation that is now leading to the proliferation of more turbines in the island's viewshed."

Resident Michael Hickey told The Times that he believes “the wind farm was improperly sighted off the island, as it is out of context and scale with the island’s rural character, and it is incongruous with the land.” Hickey noted that Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski commented recently that, ‘We’re called Deepwater Wind, not coast water wind,’ and said his company’s tag line is ‘clean energy just over the horizon.’

The Block Island Wind Farm is clearly visible from the island, situated in a high-wind zone in 90-feet of water three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island.