Deepwater Wind, Conservation Law Foundation Reach Agreement to Protect Right Whales During Block Island Wind Farm Construction
*Construction Period Adjusted to Minimize Potential Impacts to Migrating North Atlantic Right Whales*
Deepwater Wind and Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) today announced an agreement that will further protect endangered North Atlantic right whales during the construction of the Block Island Wind Farm.
After extensive discussions with CLF, Deepwater Wind has agreed to voluntarily adjust its planned construction period to minimize potential impacts to migrating North Atlantic Right Whales. Right whales have been documented feeding in Rhode Island Sound throughout the month of April.
Deepwater Wind has agreed that no pile driving will occur before May 1 of the project’s construction year. The company had planned to begin the pile driving necessary to secure its wind farm to the ocean floor in April of its construction year. The pile driving is required to fasten the five proposed turbine steel foundations to the seafloor using steel piles that are hammered into the ocean floor to a depth of up to 250 feet under the ocean floor. Construction is planned for 2014 or 2015.
“Deepwater Wind’s robust engagement on the issue of right whale protection is a model for the industry,” said Tricia K. Jedele, Vice President and Director of Conservation Law Foundation’s Rhode Island office. “Deepwater Wind has worked diligently to try to understand the key issues for the project area and because we share a common interest in advancing renewable energy in Rhode Island, we have been motivated to work together to develop solutions that keep us moving forward.”
Deepwater Wind has filed an amended project schedule with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council.
“Conservation Law Foundation in Rhode Island has long led efforts to protect our coastal environment and to promote the development of renewable energy,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “We’re pleased to reach an agreement that balances protection of marine mammals with responsible development of the tremendous wind resource off Block Island’s coast. We remain committed to being a national leader in responsible renewable energy development.”
This agreement for the Block Island project adopts the seasonal restriction concept set forth in a right whale protections agreement established last month for the Mid- Atlantic region by a Deepwater Wind-led coalition of offshore wind developers and
leading national environmental organizations.
The first-of-its-kind coalition – including Deepwater Wind, CLF, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Energy Management, Inc. (Cape Wind), and NRG Bluewater Wind – agreed to a set of protective measures that the developers will voluntarily implement over the next four years in the Mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas, which stretch from New Jersey to Virginia.
The measures outlined in that agreement provide protections for the North Atlantic right whales, primarily by limiting sound impacts from exploratory activities such as underwater geological surveys and the construction of temporary towers to measure weather conditions. NRDC, NWF and CLF plan to pursue a similar agreement with interested developers for the federal wind energy area in Rhode Island Sound.
Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt demonstration-scale offshore wind farm, will be connected to both Block Island and mainland Rhode Island via the bi-directional Block Island Transmission System (BITS).
The five-turbine wind farm, located in state waters about three miles off the Block Island, R.I. coast, is on target to be the nation’s first offshore wind project.