Deepwater Wind’s proposal to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States inched closer to reality this week when the Providence company’s five-turbine project planned off Block Island received a key permit from the lead federal regulatory agency.
The approval on Thursday from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers follows last May’s approval from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council, the state’s lead permitting agency for the project, and means that the proposal has been reviewed and approved by a total of nine state and federal agencies.
The favorable decision from the Army Corps means that the 30-megawatt wind farm that would be built three miles southeast of Block Island is now fully permitted. The only remaining regulatory hurdle for the project is securing a right-of-way permit from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the underwater electric cable that would connect the wind farm to the mainland. Deepwater expects that permit to be approved in the coming weeks.
The ruling by the Army Corps, which Deepwater announced on Friday, is especially important because the agency carried out a full environmental assessment of the project under federal guidelines and consulted with a host of other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“That’s the heavy lifting in the federal process,” Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said in an interview. “This is a big step forward in bringing the permitting process to a close.”
The permit also will help Deepwater as it seeks to complete financing for the $300-million project. The company already is in talks with several banks and that process is expected to wrap up in the fall, Grybowski said.
If all goes well, the steel foundations for the five turbines will be secured in the waters off Block Island around the middle of next summer and the onshore transmission work will follow that fall. The transmission cable will be installed in the spring and summer of 2016, as will the turbines, which will be manufactured by the French conglomerate, Alstom.
“By the fall of 2016,” Grybowski said, “the project will be in operation.”