Yesterday the nations first offshore wind farm project was approved off the coast of our neighbor to the north, Massachusetts. This made my hope of Rhode Island becoming the first state to approve and build such a project a little less bright. BUT!…there is always a but isn’t there. This decision could also be a positive development for those of us who support well planned and constructed wind farms in the (i’m not a fan of single turbines just being plopped anywhere…like over in Middletown and Portsmouth, RI) wind rich areas off of the coast.

For those of you that aren’t up to date with the green economy politics of the smallest state with the largest name, (free hug to any non-resident who knows it off the top of their head…if you had to Google it then I’m sorry but you are disqualified!) we recently had a proposal from Deepwater Wind, a New Jersey company who proposed building two offshore wind farms. One for eight turbines in state waters three  miles southeast of Block Island, and one larger scale project of one hundred turbines, fifteen miles offshore in federal waters. Supporters hopes were blown away on March 30th, when  the cost of usage per kilowatt hour raised questions of feasibility by the state’s Public Utilities Commission. The Commission rejected the contract, stating that the 24.4-cent-per-kilowatt hour starting price was not “commercially reasonable.”

Rhode Island was leading the pack of other East Coast states  including Delaware and New Jersey pursuing offshore wind. While Cape Wind was still entangled in a nine-year struggle for approval, in December of 2009 Deepwater announced that National Grid would  buy power from the Block Island wind farm.  Agreements with a utility like National Grid are crucial for offshore wind developers to obtain financing–it helps when they have contracts with a buyer(s).

Last week our own Governor Carcieri and five other governors from the East coast; Patrick of Massachusetts, Markell of Delaware, O’Malley of Maryland, Christie of New Jersey, Paterson of New York wrote to U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar in support of Cape Winds controversial project in Nantucket Sound because of the benefits it would have to the industry as a whole.

Rhode Island is not done fighting for the project–the  governor and General Assembly leaders are trying to reach a solution that would allow Deepwater and National Grid to renegotiate a few key elements including the price of renewable energy. The Block Island project was designed and targeted for state waters on purpose–the state permitting process can be more predictable and less cumbersome than the federal version.  If the parties involved can sit down and resolve a few of the impeding issues there is still a tiny chance that Rhode Island could beat out Massachusetts for the first offshore wind-farm.

It is thought that if Deepwater can be the first in our country to build offshore Rhode Island would have the upper hand in attracting the large European turbine manufacturers. Making our state a hub of green manufacturing based out of the Quonset Business Park, where Deepwater is currently leasing 117 acres.  The Cape Wind project could play a part in all of these as representatives from Siemens (German manufacturer of turbines to Cape Wind) have considered Quonset as a potential site for assembling turbines before transporting them east to Nantucket Sound.

As of  now no agreement has been drafted, but there is thinking that if a deal could be reached it could reduce costs for all parties involved, and help to draw manufacturers.

So  my question to you–as we sit here on the cusp of the summer driving season, with gas already rising here more than twelve cents in two weeks…are you willing to pay more for your utility bills if it meant our country wouldn’t be completely reliable on foreign sources of fuel?

I’m a little verklempt myself. Give me a second. Talk amongst yourselves

Posted by Amanda| follow me on Twitter

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