Rhode Island Offshore Wind Farm Takes Step Forward - And Some Environmentalists Are Upset?

offshore wind farm photo

photo: m.prinke via flickr

The race to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States continues with Rhode Island taking one more legislative step towards beating its neighbors. The Providence Journal reports that the state legislature has enacted a new law that speeds the time it takes to get regulatory approval between wind power developer Deepwater Wind and the state's main electric utility. But not everyone is happy with that...

The [Public Utility Commission] last March unanimously rejected the original contract proposal between National Grid and Deepwater because it judged the price of 24.4 cents per kilowatt-hour to be not "commercially reasonable" [TH note: that's double the cost of electricity in Rhode Island] -- the standard put in place with the passage a year ago of the state's long-term contracting law for renewable energy.

The new law changes that measuring stick by dramatically narrowing the window for the PUC assessment. Rather than ruling whether the price is broadly commercially reasonable, the PUC must now approve the contract if it is deemed to be "commercially reasonable for a small offshore wind-demonstration project that is limited to eight wind turbines, even if there may be other energy alternatives in the region that could produce electricity at a lower unit cost."

Which means, according to Conservation Law Foundation (which has pulled support for the Deepwater Wind project), that the Public Utility Commission is being asked to compare the cost of the proposed project against itself. One state Rep who initially backed the project, and who represents the district where the project would be staged, has also pulled support on the grounds that the financials just don't make sense.

Not quite the controversy that dogged the Cape Wind project, but still...

Read the original article--Law sets new standard for approval of wind farm--if you're interested in the state politics behind this.

When completed, Deepwater Wind says the project will generate 1.3 million megawatt-hours of electricity annually, 15% of the state's current demand.

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More on Offshore Wind Farms:
Rhode Island's First Offshore Wind Farm to Begin Construction in 2010
Northeast States Rush to Build Nation's First Offshore Wind Farm
US Approves First Offshore Wind Farm

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