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United States

US Block Island offshore project takes step forward

Developer agrees transmission deal with local gov't

An important step forward has been achieved by the developer of the proposed 30MW Block Island offshore wind farm, planned for waters off the US state of Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind has agreed what's known as an easement with Block Island authorities, agreeing terms for electricity transmission cable laying on the island itself. The easement is a small, but crucial step that should allow Deepwater Wind to lay a 34.5kV AC transmission cable linking the wind farm and Block Island with the US mainland.

New Shoreham town council granted the easement after Deepwater Wind agreed to the council's request for fibre optic communication cabling to be part of the cable 'bundle'. The developer will also pay the council $350,000. If any damage is caused to existing water supply pipes, repairs will be funded from this money, however, the council can keep it even if no damage is done.

Block Island has a population of just over 1,000 and is located about 21km off the Rhode Island coast. Fibre optic cables would greatly improve the island's communications, since it currently depends on a microwave tower.

Deepwater Wind applied for the right to proceed with installation of an AC transmission cable from the US federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) in November 2011. Objections to the plan on grounds of "competitive interest" were due by 22 June.

The plan to install five 6MW direct drive Siemens turbines off Block Island is underpinned by a 20-year, 24.4 cents-per-kWh power purchase agreement (PPA), which Deepwater Wind secured with utility National Grid, via its subsidiary Narragansett Electric. This PPA has the backing of the Rhode Island supreme court, which ruled in the project's favour last July.

Despite this latest positive step, there remain a series of hurdles that Deepwater Wind must overcome if the Block Island project is to become a reality, acknowledges the company's chief administrative officer, Jeff Grybowski. These include approvals from Rhode Island's coastal zone agency, the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Federal Aviation Administration.

Deepwater Water hopes to secure these approvals during the first quarter of 2013 and to build the project in 2014.

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