The Block Island Times

Letters to the Editor, March 16, 2013

Mar 18, 2013

This letter was written to Michael J. Elliott of the US Army Corps of Engineers and copied to the Block Island Times.

To the Editor:

As a home owner on Block Island for 35 years and a year-round resident for the past 17 years, I am writing to strongly support the Deepwater Wind Project. I think this is one of the most significant Rhode Island infrastructure projects and one that will have far reaching economic and environmental benefits to the Block Island community.

As a semi-retired person, a 40 percent reduction in my monthly electricity rate at current costs of diesel fuel is a significant savings to me and the costs will no longer fluctuate with the volatile costs of diesel fuel. These savings have been confirmed by the Town’s Electric Utility Task Group analysis in its Dec. 12, 2012 Report to the Town Council. Additionally, the socialization of the cost of the cable to the mainland is a significant economic benefit to the island. The 1,800 current customers of BIPCo could never afford to pay for a standalone cable to the mainland.

The environmental benefits will significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the Island. No longer will the island be consuming 1 million gallons of diesel fuel a year to power the diesel generators. Those generators will no longer run 24/7 and only be used as emergency backup if there is a problem with the cable to the mainland. Most importantly, the majority of the annual electricity consumed on the island will come from the five offshore wind turbines – a true renewable energy source.

As can be seen on my website, I have over 40 years of experience in finance and have had numerous opportunities to evaluate managements of companies, municipal governments and nonprofit organizations I have financed. In my professional opinion, the local and mainland management of Deepwater Wind, whom I have met, are very professional and competent and have demonstrated to me their dedication to developing a state of the art off shore wind project. I think the scope and depth of the Environmental Report they submitted with their Application is an example of that dedication.

One final thought. I am dismayed by the vocal opposition to the Deepwater Wind Project. Knowing some of the people in that camp, I would have to characterize them as seasonal residents whose primary residence is on the mainland. As such, they have no understanding of the issues confronting the working, year-round residents and businesses on island who have to make their livelihoods during the four months of the tourism season.

Thank you for giving me the opportunity to express my opinion of the Deepwater Wind Project.

William J. Penn

Beacon Hill Road

To the Editor:

Well it’s about time, Mr. Grybowski (Deepwater CEO), that you are feeling the need to be defensive. Reference is made to your Feb. 23 letter to the editor at the B.I. Times.

The communities here on Block Island and now in Narragansett are questioning your facts and motives from many angles, and it is certainly timely. Fact-checking has become central in our electoral process and needs to be here as well. An opposing voice is central to and encouraged in American culture. This is how fact-based opinions can be formed. And mine is firmly against you because of how much money you will be making off of Rhode Island unnecessarily and that a stand-alone cable can be financed by power ratepayers for a fraction of what you are preparing to impose on us.

You indicate that “only private sector funds are involved in this project.” You further state that you, at Deepwater, are “baffled why some would criticize investment in our state.” I will help you. The $9 million you indicated on March 6 at the Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC) application fee hearing as having been invested to build your wind farm off our shores so far are the seeds needed to give effect to your valuable Power Purchase Agreement with National Grid (the “PPA”, see Your own company’s testimony in front of the RI Public Utilities Commission (PUC) indicates that the PPA will generate for you over $683 million in revenue and over $230 million in project level cashflow for your company after the cost of the windfarm’s construction. (see (7-15-10).pdf). Moreover, if the project is operational, your company testified that your cashflows will include over $55 million you will receive from the federal government in tax credits paid to you in cash by the government or from tax investors you will sell the credits to…shortly after the first day that the first kilowatt of power is generated. All of these profits are possible because you are making ratepayers pay $400 million more for power from this wind farm than for other “green” power already available from National Grid and because you are receiving a huge payment derived from a federal government tax incentive.

So, while you may be investing a few million dollars now to pursue this windfarm, we know that it is because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that lay under our waters, all funded by the public paying excessively for power already available from other green sources and from government incentives. So, the suggestion that “only private sector funds are involved in this project” is decidedly false.

And, Mr. Grybowski, I query into how much of those hundreds of millions you and others at Deepwater, and your owners at D.E. Shaw and FirstWind, will personally receive through incentive stock options, variable compensation and other equity derivatives in Deepwater stock and that of your affiliates.

So, don’t fret the few dollars you currently have at risk. If this project does proceed, your hundreds of millions in profits will be safe, courtesy of the Rhode Island public and the federal government.

Mike Beauregard

Mohegan Trail

To the Editor:

We are writing in response to Jeff Grybowski’s recent letter in the B.I. Times. As CEO of Deepwater Wind, he defends the five-turbine windfarm his company plans for three miles off Block Island’s southeast corner. He attempts to address concerns recently raised, as new knowledge about Deepwater’s plans becomes available. He also misstates the level of residents’ support for the project.

His letter summons up the standard claims that have been used for years to make the windfarm sound attractive. B.I. electric rates are projected (though not guaranteed) to go down, and the island would gain the long-desired cable from the mainland that would obviate the need for diesel generation. Deepwater Wind is spending lots of money on the island right now, and they promise to take care of the mess when the turbines’ working years are over.

Nonetheless, many questions that have been raised about the windfarm remain unanswered, including:

Why do the turbines have to be located so near the island, risking sound and light pollution as well as marring the viewscape on which B.I.’s tourist industry depends?

Where is the Environmental Impact Statement by an impartial body, as contrasted to the company’s own public relations?

Where is the independent evaluation of the effect on electric rates?

Where will the cable come ashore on the mainland, and what will be the effects on beaches and neighborhoods there?

Why must the cable come ashore at the island’s most popular swimming beach, disrupting seasonal use for the duration of the constriction project?

Do the people of Rhode Island understand that they will be subsidizing this project to the tune of about half a billion dollars?

Were these questions to be honestly addressed, we believe the windfarm would lose a good deal of its appeal.

Margaret Homans

Katy Homans

Margaret McCandless

Southeast Road

To the Editor:

I want to thank everyone who gave so generously at the last blood drive. Twenty-nine units were donated, three higher than the January drive. That is a big increase and the Blood Center was delighted. Our next drive is May 10, at the school. It is much easier for students and staff to donate there. This also plants the idea of blood donation in the minds of our children at an early age.

Anyone age 18 and older can give blood, and students between the ages of 16 to 18 can give with parental permission.

Once again, thank you donors for your life giving gifts.

Peter H. Greenman,

Coordinator, Rhode Island Blood Center Road

To the Editor:

There is tremendous potential for producing clean, pollution-free wind energy off of our coasts. In fact, America’s Atlantic Coast has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world. But while offshore wind is thriving in Europe, and though officials in many states, including Rhode Island, are working to advance offshore wind, no projects have yet been built off U.S. shores.

Thankfully, to help make the promise of offshore wind a reality, Rhode Island’s Senators Reed and Whitehouse have joined bipartisan leaders in the U.S. House and Senate in introducing bills to jumpstart the first offshore wind projects.

In Rhode Island and in states up and down the Atlantic Coast, the building blocks are being put into place to usher in a bright future for offshore wind. Continued federal support would provide much-needed financial certainty for potential projects to move forward and start producing clean, renewable energy while creating new jobs.

I’m glad to see our U.S. Senators leading the way, and I urge Congress to quickly consider and pass this important legislation.

Eunice Lee

Environment Rhode Island


To the Editor:

I would like to send my heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the town’s EMT Service and the Block Island Police for helping me deal with my mental crisis the other night.

It’s reassuring to know we live in a community where medical personnel and police are properly trained in dealing with people in crisis.

It is the three-year anniversary of my first breakdown in 2010. At that time, I was at my Vermont home. Life stresses had gotten the better of me. My daughter had just arrived in Chile, as an exchange student, the night of the 2010 earthquake. She could not be located for two days.

I cannot go into details at this time, but I believe the Vermont police are not as well trained as the Block Island police in dealing with women in crisis.

It is not against the law to be “crazy,” but it is a crime to not learn to take proper care of oneself. I thank God B.I. is set up to deal with “Broken Toys.” I thank God for Harbor Church, Pastor Steve and his compassionate staff. The Brown University telemedicine service is a great service for anyone with mental issues. I apologize for causing bad energy in our peaceful community, and to any and everyone I hurt.

Dr. Maryann Simonelli

Connecticut Ave.

To the Editor:

I subscribe to the opinion by David Lewis a few weeks back that the undisturbed ocean and the undisturbed sky above the ocean is an important asset to Block Islanders. I also think that the rate payer savings on the cost of electricity is attractive. So it would seem that there is an apples and oranges conflict to the Deepwater Wind project: aesthetics vs. money. How to resolve the conflict?

Many (most?) of us who live here do so just because Block Island is an island surrounded by water, a seemingly infinite ocean — our ocean. And that is what motivates homeowners to pay a premium to live here. Let’s say that, on average, a B.I. homeowner pays a half million dollars (substitute your own number up or down) over and above the purchase price for land and a house in a desirable location on the mainland. One half million dollars could purchase securities that would readily yield 5 percent or $25,000 per year. If electrical savings for the Deepwater cable is 40 percent — so sayeth the Electric Utility Task Force — then for an electrical monthly bill of $200 one would save about $1,000 per year. I don’t belittle $1,000, but compared to $25,000? Renters can make a similar calculation.

George Mellor

Cat Rock Road

To the Editor:

As a wind energy project management consultant with over 30 years experience in the industry, including seven years working for the Block Island Power Company as a project manager for the DOE-NASA MOD 0A wind project, I read with interest the letters to the editor in opposition to the Deepwater Wind 30 MW Offshore Wind Project. It should be clear, to anyone casting an objective eye on the project evaluation process, that the real benefits to the Block Island community from this particular project far outweigh the real and imagined project detriments.

The proposed Deepwater offshore wind project will:

Provide Block Island with an electric power transmission cable connection to the mainland electric power grid, a source of significantly reduced electricity cost.

Effectively shut down the Block Island Power Company diesel generator plant with its associated air and noise polution, and fuel transportation environmental risk.

Provide Block Island with clean, sustainable, wind generated renewable energy, making us one of the few sustainable energy communities in the country.

These benefits clearly outweigh the percieved visual, noise, and the environmental impacts associated with the construction and operation of the proposed Block Island Wind Farm and its power transmission cable to the mainland. Environmental, economic development, and employment benefits, will be realized by not only the island, but in the region as well.

The proposed savings on electricity cost to residential and commercial BIPCo customers, from a cable to the wind farm, were calculated to be approximately 40 percent off current BIPCo costs by the Town Electric Utility Task Group. This would mean a $1,680 annual savings for a residence using 500 kWh a month, a $21,600 annual savings for a business using 7,500 kWh a month, and a $120,000 annual savings for the Town of New Shoreham, or a 34 percent reduction on their electric bills. These savings will be realized by residents and businesses alike to the tune of over $2 million in electrical cost savings in a year!

Although backup diesel generation capacity will have to be maintained at the B.I. Power Company in the event of damage to the submarine cable, the reduction in noise and air pollution emissions from traditional operation of BIPCo generators will be reduced to near zero, and the availability of this backup generation capability, will provide additional Island electrical power security, in the event of a mainland power grid fault or storm damage, an additional benefit enjoyed by few other communities.

Nothing in this opportunity should be new or surprising because the benefits of an electric power transmission cable, from Block Island to the mainland, have been well documented in every energy study the Town has commissioned in the last 15 years. The problem is that no one could find a way to make the cable a viable economic option until the Town lobbied for an “Island cable option” to be included in the State of R.I. Request For Proposals for offshore wind projects issued in 2008. Deepwater Wind was the only developer responding to the RFP who: not only agreed to install a cable to Block Island as part of their proposal, but also proposed a much smaller demonstration wind project (30 MW) in Block Island waters, as compared to the other respondents, who proposed much larger wind farms, hundreds of megawatts, in direct proximity to the Island.

So on the positive side of the wind project evaluation analysis, the Block Island community has a opportunity to get its electricity from a clean renewable source at a significantly reduced cost, with a cable connection to the mainland. The project will essentially eliminate the use of diesel fuel to generate electricity, with all of the environmental benefits that provides. The Town has played an active role in the wind project permitting process under their jurisdiction in order to minimize the environmental impacts, through local zoning review and by participation in the state and federal regulatory process.

Faced with these significant cost and environmental benefits, exactly what about this project is there not to like?

Henry G duPont

Beacon Hill Road

To the Editor:

Tales of the Whale

An island is a living system sustaining unique animal, plant, and human populations. All life forms face common survival issues of space, resources, waste management, energy management, and interactions with other organisms. Healthy life forms continually adapt to maintain a homeostasis, a “balance.”

Failure to adapt leads to dramatic, increasingly severe measures as the organism approaches mortality. You can view Block Island as a complex organism faced with all the same issues.

I am certainly no expert but consider the assemblage of life forms called Block Island as successful in continually evolving solutions to change. A healthy mix of Traditionalists, In-Betweeners, and Progressives, including those of us who avoid labels, are part of the dialogue that keeps B.I. alive. The hard work of so many long-time residents is to be respected. Perhaps divided in opinion, we are all united in

a serious concern for this place called home.

Over the last 30 years I have studied and worked in the field of “Anthropological Impacts Upon Coastal Marine Environments”, including work in the fjords and windfields of Norway, the beaches, bays and estuaries of the battered and over-populated U.S. East Coast, and many of the Caribbean islands. Two decades of my studies of these islands has given some insight into the interplay between the human issues of the island population and resource use. I would characterize most of the islands studied as being environmentally and economically challenged, and yet mired in local political inaction (apparently a universal hazard of living on a small island) that pervades all attempts at solution.

The Deepwater Project is world-class in scope and application, and actually conservative in approach, with careful environmental concerns in place that have been reviewed well. My European colleagues wonder why we hesitate so much and seem to be nearing another decade of discussion before implementation. My opinion is that the project is of definite positive value to B.I. and part of our future.

This letter is being penned (does anyone still do this?) looking out the kitchen window of Wit’s End, our year-round B.I. residence. We will eventually be able to spot those few towers off the SE quadrant. I will welcome this view as much as I welcome the returning signs of the whale. To me this represents a better balance, perhaps even progress. Petroleum replaced whale oil. When petroleum is no longer viable, the wind will remain. The whales and the wind will still be ours.

Continue to adapt and prosper, Block Island!

Jules Craynock

Retired NOAA Research Oceanographer

Way up on Sands Pond Road

Comments (3)
Posted by: Ben Riggs | Mar 18, 2013 10:30

Several of the comments on Deepwater show that many people are just not clear on the facts. If they were, they may have arrived at a different opinion. Some examples:

1.  Wind power has been scientifically proven to have no meaningful impact on either fossil fuel use or carbon emissions because of the way they disrupt the flow of the power grid. There are many studies out there on this, such as the ERCOT Bentek IV in Texas. Bottom line: they aren't "green".

2.  The added $500 million in costs simply drives more jobs out of state and out of the country to places like China, that create 5 times the pollution we do when making the same products. (Their economy is half our size, and they produce nearly twice the carbon emission, 10 million tons last year.)

3.  Offshore wind towers are a hazard to navigation and disrupt both airborne and seaborne radar systems.

4.  The Deepwater project will not power Block Island. The power will be sold into the New England power grid, which will be supplying BI with power from a wide variety of sources. All BI needs is the mainland cable.

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Posted by: Sam Wells | Mar 18, 2013 11:48

I have no dog in this hunt on Deepwater but being a summer "seagull" of many years, have an observation:  wind turbines create turbulent wind.  Now this doesn't mean anything to most unless you are a sailor, airplane pilot, or somebody running radar (weather, military, ships).  But there is a wake effect from wind turbines and it's fairly substantial on the windy days good for making power.  I am not an engineer to know if this is a problem or not, since turbulence is already caused by the hills and bluffs - which makes flying into the airport interesting at times.  This isn't even a concern that should cause the project to be denied - but I have to say that wind turbine wakes have an unusual corkscrew motion.  On a Doppler radar, the sheer looks like a small tornado, as opposed to more laminar wind sheer.

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Posted by: Peter Lenker Voskamp | Mar 19, 2013 14:16

My understanding, after having covered the wind farm issue for years, is that the electricity from the farm will first travel via a short cable to the island, then any excess will go to the mainland via the longer cable. The island's peak demand is around 4 megawatts; so if the farm is operating at its capacity of 30 mw, then the majority of the electricity will go to the mainland.

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