Tuesday, April 8, 2008

RI Wind Update

One could get a headache or dizzy trying to figure out what's going on with the governor's plan to get 15% of state electricity from renewable sources. The leading (only?) contender since the plan was announced has been offshore wind, for which a feasibility study was done to identify ideal locations for wind turbines.

Since that time, the state's Coastal Resource Management Commission has been unsuccessful in identifying preferred sites for further development. It has, however, begun the useful process of figuring out what the permitting and usage practices should be for state waters, and is working with the University of Rhode Island to come up with a set of rules that takes into account economic, recreational and other users of state waters. Recently, the CRMC asked for a one year moratorium on proposals for off shore wind development while the Special Area Management Plan is developed. Essentially, asking for what is likely to happen regardless of any proposals received while the SAMP is developed.

The dizzying part occurred on Thursday when the Governor Carcieri announced at a press conference that the state would begin soliciting proposals for off-shore wind development at the sites near Block Island. Apparently the governor really wants this project to at least be underway, if not generating power before he leaves office. Perhaps also, he is looking to have the pressure from industry of a standing proposal to get CRMC and URI to complete their plan on time. As I recall, URI has stated the plan could take up to three years to develop.

Another possibility is that he understands that the bidding and proposal process is likely to take over a year and doesn't need to wait for the coastal waters usage plan and permitting process to be developed in order to begin. Given the state cannot guarantee an electricity purchase contract or any funding for the project, project developers are going to need a bit of time to get their finanial plans together and memos of understanding/Power Purchase agreements from the grid. Given the lead time on this process this is unlikely to cause issues for CRMC/URI so long as they don't decide the proposed areas shouldn't used for wind turbines.

UPDATE: The Block Island Times has more on the cost, time line and goals of the SAMP project. And I sort of thought that a very close friend of mine was joking that being from Coventry, she was called a pig-farmer. And who knew a pig farm could be declared a SuperFund site. Learn something new everyday.

Read more at the Projo and Providence Business News