A series of regulatory decisions remain to be made about the 30MW Block Island offshore wind farm being developed by Deepwater Wind. Chief among these will be a decision expected later this year by the US Army Corps of Engineers (ACE) about whether to issue a construction permit for the project, planned for waters off Rhode Island.
Deepwater Wind is also waiting on determinations from the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the Federal Aviation Administration as well as Rhode Island’s Department of Environmental Management and Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).
A public comment period organised by the ACE finally closed on 11 February, having been extended twice in order to mirror other agencies’ comment periods about Block Island. The ACE received about 100 comments on the Block Island proposal, of which about 60% were against the project, according to project manager Michael Elliott, speaking with Windpower Offshore. Most of the negative comments related to ocean views and the project’s impact on consumer electricity prices, he added.
The ACE must decide whether to hold a public hearing about the project prior to reaching a decision. Its ruling on the project will take into account the opinions of several other bodies, including the US Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, National Marine Fisheries Service and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. These agencies have been examining the project for several years and have completed all necessary baseline studies.
Meanwhile, the CRMC has also been soliciting public comment on Block Island. It officially closed its comment period on 4 February, but was still accepting comments one week later in an effort to maximise the number of responses. Its initial call for comment, which ended on 15 January, resulted in very few submissions. Deepwater Wind has 20 days to respond to comments, with a CRMC subcommittee due to meet on 6 March to consider the project.
Late last year Deepwater Wind announced it had pushed back the date by which it expects Block Island to come online, from 2014 to 2015.