Despite projects moving forward in Massachusetts and Maine, Providence-based Deepwater Wind still has a chance to build the nation’s first offshore wind farm, even as it trudges through what could be the last handful of state and federal permitting approvals.
The target date to have the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm producing energy is 2015, but that could slip to 2016, Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski has acknowledged.
If Deepwater doesn’t meet the earlier target date, the neighborly competition with the 130-turbine Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound could end up with the Massachusetts wind farm flipping the switch on the turbines sooner.
“The target date to have the project commissioned is 2016,” said Cape Wind spokesman Mark Rodgers. “We expect to complete the financing in the third quarter of this year. Construction could begin late this year or early next year.”
All of Cape Wind’s state and local permits were completed in 2009, federal permits wrapped up in 2010 and power-purchase agreements with National Grid and NSTAR approved in 2012. In December, Cape Wind signed a contract to buy turbines from Siemens, a leading offshore wind-turbine manufacturer in the global market.
“It’s a good-natured contest,” said Rodgers. “I think at this stage of the industry, every milestone Deepwater achieves is good for Cape Wind and every milestone we achieve is good for Deepwater. We’d rather be first – it’s human nature – but the important thing is that we both get going and get them built.”
Deepwater Wind has had financing in place, with lead investor D.E. Shaw a patient and solid foundation for the project, Grybowski has said. So far, Deepwater Wind has spent more than $40 million on the Block Island project.
“We want to put Rhode Island in a leadership position in offshore wind,” Grybowski said in a presentation to the Coastal Resources Management Council during a public hearing at University of Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay campus on Feb. 4, attended by about 150 people, with 60 of them signed up to offer comments. The CRMC is the main regulatory agency for the wind farm.
A 53-page report on the Block Island project by the staff of CRMC includes a few stipulations, such as a preferred drilling method for installation of the power cable on Scarborough Beach. Overall, the “CRMC staff has no objections to the project, provided the council adopts the recommended stipulations,” according to the report.