Gov. calls for B.I. wind farm bids: Island cable to be included

Mon, 04/07/2008 - 5:00am
Category: 

Governor Don Carcieri has called for bids to create an offshore wind farm at two sites off Block Island. At a press conference held on Thursday, April 3, Carcieri officially issued a request for proposals from private companies to construct a farm “designed to generate 1.3 million mega-watt hours per year of renewable energy” in two areas south of the island.

Estimates are that the project could cost between $900 million and $1.5 billion, said Bill Fischer, spokesman for Allco, a New York-based company that applied to build a wind farm in Rhode Island last fall.

It would be the largest private investment project in Rhode Island history, he said.

Bids are due May 16.

The two sites, mentioned in previous meetings with the state, are known as “J” and “K” — to the south and southwest of the island. They were identified in a state-commissioned study as being two of the most viable wind locales in state waters.

The state is also asking that bidders ensure that Block Island benefits from an electrical cable to the mainland that would transmit the power being generated.

According to the RFP, “Respondents should strongly consider locating a substation on the island. The state has had initial discussions with [Block Island Power Company], who have indicated that they would make land available on their premises for [a substation]. It is important that New Shoreham be allowed to benefit from a cable connection to the mainland, and it is expected that the transmission line from the facility will serve that purpose, allowing two-way flow of electrical energy, with an interconnect to the BIPCO system.”

“That’s wonderful,” said BIPCo principal Cliff McGinnes Sr. He confirmed that BIPCo would welcome a substation and said his biggest fear was that developers would bypass the island because it would cost less to go directly to the mainland.

According to the request document, after discussing a potential wind farm with the town and island residents last fall, “acceptance is extremely high.”

Three years ago Governor Carcieri announced his plan to provide 15 percent of the state’s energy from wind.

“As you can imagine, creating significant sources of renewable energy does not happen overnight,” Carcieri said at the announcement.

While the bid process is underway the Coastal Resources Management Council and the University of Rhode Island will continue work to establish a permitting process as well as a Special Area Management Plan for ocean sites.

The CRMC has been deliberating whether to set a year-long moratorium on alternative energy projects while that SAMP plan is being created.

Allco’s Fischer says there’s been a good deal of interest generated about the Rhode Island project because no large-scale offshore wind farm has been created in the United States.

Allco is “cognizant we’re not alone,” he says, and will be at the “same competitive disadvantage as anyone else” given that the permitting regulations are not in place.

According to the bid request, proposals to sell the electricity to the wholesale market would not be considered for the first 1.3 million gigawatt-hours produced, “unless creative approaches to provide long-term price stability for Rhode Island electricity customers are clearly demonstrated. Output above 1.3 million gigawatt-hours may be sold on any basis to any purchaser.”

State Energy director Andrew Dzykewicz was not available for comment.

To read more about the proposal, visit, http://www.ri.gov/development/ENERGY/documents/independence1/RIWINDSRepo...