Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Wind Power and Block Island

"I think wind farms would be acceptable to many people; they certainly are to me. I believe there's been a shift of perception - we're getting used to the idea and understand the need." – Block Island First Warden Kim Gaffett, on a study that says the best place out of several good locations in Rhode Island for power-producing windmills is off Block Island’s south shore.

The south shore is a long stretch of wild beach where people surf, sunbathe in the nude, and fish. The bluffs erode boulders and sand and a grayish clay that kids use as body paint. Barn owls supposedly nest there. Houses sit on top of the bluffs, but you can’t see them, and with the noise of the wind and the surf, you feel you’re in the wilderness.

I’m a proponent of wind power. I wish the ocean off Block Island’s bluffs wasn’t a good place for them. I have a feeling though that First Warden Gaffett’s opinion about people’s acceptance of wind farms is way optimistic. Here’s what the Block Island Times reports.

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Blogger Sam said...

Let's see here, giant wind turbines over 140 feet tall within 1-3 miles of Block Island off Black Rock? That's stupid. The study must have been constrained to Rhode Island waters and not the offshore - isn't the Nantucket wind farm at least a few miles further out to sea in federal waters?

I guess it could happen but that's exactly where Cox Ledge is for great fishing and is our course for sailing around the Island.

Then let me get this right, giant cable would be laid up the eroding bluffs (Mohegan Bluff) to a relay transformer station and then patched into the grid by some more rather serious cables - not your 14 kV local juice but 28 kV or higher.

Great. Kim, we usually like what you say but that was a major brain fart, honey. /sam

2:20 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

Tom, thanks for posting this article. Lots to read in order to really understand the implications. Some initial thoughts:

RI is pursuing offshore wind where LIPA dismissed it out of hand (off Montauk). LIPA's dismissal of this potential resource apparently went unquestioned by LI enviro and renewable energy groups. Perhaps RI's efforts will push everyone to reconsider Montauk.

Are we going to have the same Balkanized approach to renewable energy projects (or opposition thereto) as we have for LNG and other projects? How ridiculous is it for RI to consider running a cable all the way back to the main land for some of the offshore parcels when Montauk is within five or ten miles? Why can't NY and RI work together to optimize the offshore wind resource that lies between the two states? Apparently, RI wants to keep this power in RI, but is that really the best way to look at it?

Lots of questions. Answers to follow, I hope.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Well Bryan I tend to agree that regional planning would be a great approach. I know, you're thinking I had a sudden attack of the NIMBY off southern Block Island, but let's get out the map and look at the area between Montauk and Plum Island all the way across to Martha's Vinyard and Buzzard's Bay. I'd have the states, locals, and NOAA there at the table. Start by eliminating areas identified as not good and which areas do indeed look feasible to wind energy development. Develop a regional plan with preferred wind enery development zones and take it out for public comment in a combined fashion. You could do this in something like nine months. Just call it an "ad hoc" committee and don't ask for any legislation or expensive consultants. Just "geterdone."

2:19 PM  
Anonymous Bryan said...

The regionalization process you describe sounds great. I would love to see it started and you're right to include MA, too. What I would also like to see resolved is the question of when to consider the nitty-gritty environmental issues: as part of the initial evaluation, or after you've chosen the best resources and submitted for public review?

LIPA looked for the best resources, but then dismissed everything within a 10-mile radius of Montauk due to concerns re: avian impacts, based only on their consultant's evaluation.

RI, on the other hand, looked for the best resources and screened for major environmental impacts, leaving the detailed review for later in the process. RI also apparently ignored flyways in its initial screening and downplayed the significance of avian impacts based on more recent studies.

Was LIPA right to do it that way? I suggest that they were premature and should have left it open for public review (as they did with the Jones Beach site).

I'd also suggest having the Audubons at the table, but I'm not sure to what end. Mass Audubon signed off on the Nantucket wind farm, while it's my understanding that the local Audubon(s) on LI are waiting for studies to be done before deciding whether to support the Jones Beach project.

11:51 AM  
Blogger Sam said...

I'm hoping this post doesn't get buried too deep because maybe we're onto something. There is a matter of regional consistency and a fair and level playing field for not only the market but the residents, stakeholders such as Audubon, and everyybody. Remember the idea to unify the lobster laws? Sure, there was a bunch of fussing because each state had it's own history of regulations and approaches, but the outcome was unified and I hope quite strong.

I sure wish I was up there to talk with fresh voices like you and Tom, people who want to get results, but my work keeps me in Texas or on the West Coast. If Port of New York (PANYNJ) ever fires back up I'll be knocking on your doors!

I brought up the subbject of the mobstermen earlier because that group really doesn't have a lobby, but a few should be included in previoew draft and the meetings. Usually there is a core group of wonks and then the teckies form a larger circle to air out their thoughts before taking proposals to the streets. That way, you anticipate most of the negative comments well ahead of time.

What it takes is a strong moderator, definitely not me, but somebody who can repectfully say "Senator Longcods, that is an excellent idea but let me park that one until we get through the agenda here." The regional thing is the way to go and if I can help from afar please let me know.
/Sam Wells

7:00 PM  

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