Deepwater gets first approval with long permitting road ahead

Tue, 02/28/2012 - 8:45pm

Deepwater Wind this week received the first approval in the long process it must go through to receive the necessary permits to construct an offshore wind demonstration project located within three miles of Block Island’s southern coast.

Monday night, February 27, the Historic District Commission voted to give Deepwater Wind a Certificate of Appropriateness to construct a substation on Block Island Power Company property, land to the south of the state garage that is one of two sites Deepwater has proposed. In its motion the commission said it had a preference for the site on BIPCo land and will require Deepwater to return to the commission if it decides to go forward with the substation on the other site, on land owned by the estate of Marjorie McGinnes.

The proposal is also up before the local planning and zoning boards. Hearings are expected in March and April.

Wilson addressed several of the other concerns the commission expressed during a preliminary review last month. The plant materials that will screen the substation was altered slightly to include only native plants.

The commission also wanted to know whether 40-foot power lines proposed to be strung overhead on the BIPCo property could be undergrounded or at least camouflaged. Wilson reiterated the difficulties with undergrounding that have come up at every local hearing on the application.

Deepwater is concerned about the potential of disturbing contaminated soil on the site. Wilson explained that the Dempartment of Environmental Management and BIPCo believe the site is “stabilized.” Wilson said Deepwater did not want to risk destabilizing it by digging.

Wilson also explained that camouflaging the poles to look like pine trees — a suggested from the commission at the last meeting — was infeasible. That type of camouflage is generally used with communications towers and would require even taller poles, he said, and there were safety and practicality issues that precluded using camouflaged poles.

The commission thanked Wilson for looking into their suggestions and moved that the substation proposal met HDC regulations.