BIRA survey: 53% support wind farm

PolitiFact: Island power rate will drop by 40%
Sat, 01/05/2013 - 3:30pm

Two pieces of news emerged at the end of 2012 that relate to Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, which the company plans to have completed three miles off the island’s southeast shore by 2015.

The Block Island Resident’s Association sent an email to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with the results of a poll the group conducted on the wind farm. Respondents had told the group that 53 percent of them supported the wind farm, while 38 percent opposed it, a drop in opposition to the farm from two years ago, when half supported and half opposed it.

And the Providence Journal’s PolitiFact Truth-O-Meter took a look at the claim that the wind farm would lower power rates on Block Island by 40 percent, and ruled the claim correct.

BIRA poll

BIRA president William Penn reported to the Corps’ project manager for the Block Island Wind Farm, Michael Elliott, about the group’s poll. “We received 123 responses to the Poll,” Penn wrote, “which represents approximately one third of our membership.

“The membership views of the Project are highly polarized with a small majority (53 percent) of the respondents supporting the Project while 38 percent oppose it. The responses to this poll are different from an earlier Poll we conducted two years ago in which the membership was split — half supported and half opposed the Project.”

Different groups of island residents have very different opinions about the wind farm, Penn noted. “When we analyze the demographics of the respondent views, we discover some noteworthy information. The largest group of respondents was seasonal residents representing 61 percent of the total. This is not surprising since 70 percent of the housing units on the Island are seasonal. Of this group, 58 percent were supporting the Project while 38 percent were opposed to it.

“The second largest group of respondents was retirees with 16 percent of the total. Of these respondents, half supported the Project and half opposed it.

“The smallest group of respondents was year-round residents and Island businesses with 11 percent of the total. This group was under-represented since they account for 30 percent of the housing units on the Island. Of these respondents, 69 percent were supporting the Project while only 8 percent opposed it.”


Deepwater had Tweeted the claim in mid-December, but it was first asserted by the island's Electric Utilities Task Group, a group of energy and finance experts set up to examine energy issues as they relate to the island's unique circumstances. The group estimated that having access to the mainland power grid through the cable that it is part of the Wind Farm Project would allow island power rates to fall to around 31 cents per kilowatt hour, a drop from the 54 cents island ratepayers were billed in 2011.

PolitiFact gave the claim of a 40 percent drop a True rating. “Once the cable is laid and the Wind Farm Project is on line, in 2014 or 2015, Block Island Power will be able to purchase electricity from the New England power network at much lower costs,” says the story.

“The task group estimated that electric rates on the island — based on a 20-year agreement between Deepwater Wind and National Grid — would fall to 30.7 cents per kilowatt hour, a 35.4-percent decrease from 2011 rates.

“(The island’s rates would still be substantially higher than those on the mainland because its customers would be paying for a portion of the costs for installing the cable and for maintenance of the island’s power system.)

“The task group’s analysis noted that current power costs on Block Island have risen to 54 cents per kilowatt hour because of the increasing diesel costs. Based on that figure, the decrease would be a 42-percent drop — about what Deepwater said in its Tweet.”