Deepwater seeks weather tower near North Light

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 7:30pm

The Town Council is expected Tuesday to hear a request to place a 180-foot temporary meteorological tower near the North Light.

The metal tower will gather data for Deepwater Wind, the company planning to install five to eight wind turbines three miles off the southeast side of the island by 2012. Deepwater would like to install the tower as soon as possible, assuming the Town Council grants the necessary Special Temporary Use Permit, said Deepwater Vice President for Development Clint Plummer. He estimated the tower would stay in place for one to two years, with permit renewal every six months.

“In order to best capture data that will reflect what the wind resource is like we need to have that [tower] on the portion of the island that has the least land effects,” Plummer said. “That means given the shape of Block Island we need to be as far north as possible.”

Plummer said preliminary plans call for a single-pole tower 12 to 14 inches in diameter with guy wires, not a metal lattice tower similar to the one at the Block Island Power Company. The tower would include anemometers and other equipment to measure wind speed and wind turbulence. The data will be fed to AWS Truewind, which Deepwater has hired to analyze wind patterns around the island.

Plummer said the company is considering a handful of possible sites for the tower, all west of Sachem Pond and south of the North Light, all on town land. He said the company is cognizant of environmental and visual concerns and is taking pains to locate the tower with as little impact as possible. Deepwater, Plummer said, is also willing to negotiate a monthly rent to use the land.

“What we’re trying to do here is be as upfront and as open as transparent as we possibly can,” Plummer said.

At least three Town Council members said they were ready to grant the permit. At a work session Monday First Warden Kim Gaffett, Second Warden Ray Torrey and Ken Lacoste said the tower would provide helpful information for a project that could benefit Block Island with lower electric rates through a connection to the island and mainland. They said they were, however, conscious of viewsheds and would urge Deepwater to place the tower out of the line of sight of homes.

The installation of the tower would also require permission from the state Coastal Resources Management Council, which Plummer said the company expects to receive.

Separately, Deepwater reached an agreement this week with the town to rent space on the communications tower behind the police station. Plummer said Deepwater plans to install equipment next week to collect data on bat activity. Under the contract Deepwater will pay the town $500 a month in rent, plus an additional $4,000 upfront to upgrade the tower’s utility room. The equipment would stay up for one to two years.

Deepwater has also signed an agreement with the Southeast Lighthouse Foundation to put a light detecting and ranging system on the lighthouse grounds. The system will monitor bird flight patterns. The foundation will receive $500 a month in rent.

The unit, expected to be installed next week, will stay at the lighthouse for a year.