Deepwater fetes Groundhog crowd

Sat, 02/09/2013 - 2:15pm
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As Groundhog Day festivities kicked off at 4 p.m. Saturday at the Island Pub, Deepwater Wind provided free food and beverages for those on hand to hear a talk by Bryan Wilson, Deepwater’s B.I. wind farm project manager. About 35 people showed up for Wilson’s discussion about the proposed Block Island wind farm, a number that grew to around 50 by the end of the hour. It drew both supporters and opponents, and Wilson answered questions from both.

Andy Dangelas wanted to know how much money island ratepayers would save on their electric bills. Wilson replied that there would be a 40 percent drop, a figure he said was conservative and independently calculated by the Block Island Electric Utility Task Force. Bill Penn, a member of that task force, was on hand to substantiate Wilson’s claim.

While on the subject of savings, Wilson said eliminating the costs of transporting fuel to the island for the diesel generators at the Block Island Power Company (BIPCo), a million gallons a year in his estimate, would be another big savings.

For the town, Penn said, solar co-generation would be cheaper than trying to install a cable to the mainland on its own; but the town would have to find a way to come up with the money for solar. Deepwater has agreed to install a cable to the mainland as part of its five-turbine wind farm proposed for three miles southeast of the island.

Wilson was asked how power would be maintained on the island should the cable fail once it is in place. He said that BIPCo would be responsible should such a scenario occur and that the town is working with the private utility to come up with a plan.

Wilson also addressed concerns about disruption of avian migratory paths by the wind turbines. He said studies indicate there would be none. When asked to address concerns about deterioration and maintenance, he outlined how the towers would be built and the cable laid. The cable, he said, would be buried in a man-made trough in the seabed. The wind tower design would be similar to oil platform structures built in the Gulf of Mexico that have proven hardy in severe weather and sea conditions.

As Wilson wound down his talk, offering to answer questions for individuals, a petition supporting the Block Island wind farm wound its way through the room. The petition was circulated by Nat and Lew Gaffett, and had about 80 signatures by mid-week.