B.I. Wind Farm clears final federal hurdle

Decision allows cable to the mainland
Fri, 11/21/2014 - 3:45pm

The final piece of the federal permitting process was approved for the Block Island Wind Farm on Monday, Nov. 17.

In a press release announcing the decision, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell said that the approval paves “the way for Block Island, the only Rhode Island community not connected to the grid, to have access to clean, affordable, renewable energy.” Jewell went on to say that the “announcement is an exciting development for Block Island, but it also represents a big step in our nation’s sustainable energy future.”

The final federal permit was approved by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which grants a right-of-way to Deepwater Wind to run the transmission cable through federal waters. The BOEM announcement was made by Acting Director Walter Cruickshank.

“Today’s announcement builds on Interior’s work to stand up a sustainable offshore wind program for the Atlantic Coast,” said Cruickshank in the press release.

The cable, or the Block Island Transmission System (BITS), was described as a “bi-directional submerged transmission cable between Block Island and the Rhode Island mainland.”

Jewell, in the press release, said “This is a major milestone for offshore renewable energy in the United States. This decision marks the first right-of-way grant offered in federal waters for renewable energy transmission.”

According to a press release that was issued by the U.S. Department of the Interior, “The transmission system would serve two purposes: 1) connect Deepwater Wind’s proposed 30 megawatt (MW) Block Island Wind Farm, located in Rhode Island state waters about 2.5 nautical miles southeast of Block Island, to the Rhode Island mainland; and 2) transmit power from the existing onshore transmission grid on the mainland to Block Island. The ROW corridor, which is about eight nautical miles long and 200 feet wide, comprises the portion of the transmission line that crosses federal waters.”

According to the press release, “Once both the agency and Deepwater Wind have agreed upon the terms and conditions of the grant, BOEM will send the grant to Deepwater Wind for execution, and the company will be required to pay the first year’s rent and provide financial assurance. Once executed, BOEM will finalize its review of Deepwater Wind’s General Activities Plan, which describes proposed installation activities and conceptual decommissioning plans for the transmission system. The General Activities Plan would be the first approved for an offshore wind energy project for a transmission system in federal waters.

“The majority of the activities and permanent structures related to the Block Island Wind Farm will be sited in state waters and lands, making the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers the lead federal agency for analyzing the potential environmental effects of the project under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

“As a portion of the proposed project would be located on the federally managed Outer Continental Shelf, the project must secure a ROW grant from BOEM before proceeding. BOEM has participated as a cooperating agency in the NEPA analysis and associated consultations led by the Corps.

In September 2014, the Corps completed an Environmental Assessment (EA) for the Block Island Wind Farm and BITS, and issued a Finding of No Significant Impact. Before adopting the EA, BOEM conducted an independent review of the EA and determined that no reasonably foreseeable significant impacts are expected to occur as the result of the preferred alternative, or any of the alternatives contemplated by the EA.

“On Oct. 27, 2014, BOEM issued a Finding of No Significant Impact for the issuance of a ROW grant, and approval of the General Activities Plan, with modifications.”