Wind farm developers want same area

Posted 4/3/11

NARRAGANSETT – Two developers want the same approximately 45 square miles of ocean as a place for wind farms, a federal agency said Tuesday.

In December, Providence-based Deepwater Wind and Massachusetts-based Neptune Wind told the U.S. Department of Interior they were interested in leasing an area roughly between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

But Neptune never publicly shared its exact location, leaving to speculation if it and Deepwater would go directly head-to-head for the same plot of ocean.

On Tuesday, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement held an informational session about the leasing process. Officials showed a map outlining the boundaries of an area where the federal government will likely accept proposals for wind farm leases.

Deepwater and Neptune’s desired areas overlap in the eastern part of the proposed area available for lease requests. Both companies also expressed interest in areas where their competitor expressed no interest.

Deepwater wants to construct a farm with 200 turbines about 15 miles off the shore of Rhode Island. Neptune has not made its plans public.

The companies submitted the notices of interest on their own and their proposals could change when the bureau opens its formal leasing process, said Maureen Bornholdt, a program manager at the bureau’s office of offshore alternative energy programs.

The bureau may also shrink the area that developers can seek to lease. It is presently undertaking a review of the roughly 300-square-mile area and could remove portions of it based on concerns from other agencies, Bornholdt told the audience.

Once the bureau finalizes the area, Neptune and Deepwater may submit refined proposals or let their informal ones submitted last year stand as their official requests. Other companies could also seek leases.

“It’s conceivable there are other companies out there that say I want to lease that area,” Bornholdt said.

Deepwater Wind Chief Development Officer Paul Rich said Tuesday marked the first time he saw the specific areas Neptune desired. He said the information would not change Deepwater’s plans, as the company knew competition was a possibility.

“It’s part of the process,” Rich said. “I don’t see any surprises.”

The area sought by Deepwater is for a project separate from where the company wants to construct a smaller farm with six to eight turbines. That area, about 3 miles off the coast of Block Island, sits in state waters and a project there will go through a different approval process.

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