Deepwater nets a federal grant for bird, bat studies

Mon, 05/18/2009 - 4:15am

05/16/09 - The company proposing five to eight offshore wind turbines three miles to the east of Block Island received $295,360 last week to conduct avian and bat monitoring studies on the island.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded Deepwater Wind the money to conduct high-definition aerial video recording of bird species, establish a bat monitoring program utilizing inland, coastal and offshore digital acoustical bat monitors, and integrate radar and acoustical monitoring to allow radar to better detect bats in future environmental programs.

Deepwater was the only offshore wind developer to receive funding from the Department of Energy (DOE). It had applied for the money in March and is among the 53 recipients of DOE grants related to research and development of wind energy.

“We’re proud to have been selected by the Department of Energy to receive a grant for the critical studies Deepwater Wind is conducting on Block Island to prepare for the installation of the Block Island wind farm,” Chris Wissemann, Deepwater Wind managing director, said in a statement.

The company has already placed a mobile radar system at the Southeast Lighthouse to monitor avian patterns. And it recruited nearby residents to help identify the bird species picked up on the radar. Scientists from the University of Rhode Island are conducting a parallel study using similar equipment that is being moved around the island.

Separately, Deepwater installed bat monitoring equipment on the town’s communications tower behind the police station. It has also received permission from the town to construct a 180-foot tall meteorological tower near the Coast Guard Station to collect wind data.

Elsewhere, Deepwater plans to officially open its Providence office on Monday. And executives have said they hope to open an island office in the coming weeks. The company’s local representative, Andres de Lasa, told the town’s Electric Utility Task Group that Deepwater is already renting an island apartment from the Block Island Power Co. to house its consultants.

Besides the project three miles off Block Island, scheduled for completion by 2012, Deepwater is also planning a larger wind farm, including about 100 wind turbines, 15 miles to the east of the island. Together the two projects will generate about 1.32 million megawatt hours of energy annually — enough to supply 15 percent of Rhode Island’s electricity.