National Grid eyes Block Island role

National Grid US is seeking regulatory approval to build, own and operate the undersea transmission cable and related infrastructure for Deepwater Wind’s pilot 30MW wind Block Island project to be built in Rhode Island state waters.

The utility is proposing to pay Deepwater $9.48m to acquire assets plus a development fee and to cover certain litigation costs incurred by the developer, according to a tentative agreement between them. The assets include right-of-way from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management for the ocean floor in federal waters between Block Island and the mainland, and state easements awarded for the project.

National Grid estimates the 20-mile (32.1km), 34.5kV submarine electric cable and associated facilities connecting Block Island to its mainland grid will cost $70m to $75m, utility spokesman Dan Graves tells Recharge.   

The facilities will also include one-mile of terrestrial infrastructure buried and overhead, and a new substation on Block Island, plus four miles of buried terrestrial infrastructure and a switchyard in Narragansett where the cable will come onshore.

The five-turbine array will also cover electricity needs of Block Island, where distribution is through a municipal utility. National Grid has a 20-year power purchase agreement with Deepwater that pays 24.4 cents per kWh in the first year, with a 3.5% annual increase after then.

Graves says that National Grid, the largest regulated utility in both Rhode Island and New England, has ample experience with subsea cable construction, maintenance and operation in the region.

The utility expects to file for recovery of the transmission facilities’ costs with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  

National Grid has asked the Rhode Island Division of Public utilities and Carriers to approve the proposed transaction with 20 business days from its 13 March filing date.

Graves says National Grid expects to complete project engineering this year, begin construction in 2015 with commercial operation in 2016. Deepwater chief executive Jeff Grybowski tells Rechage that Block Island will fully enter service in fourth quarter 2016.