GAINING ENERGY: The New England
Institute of Technology unveiled its wind turbine in 2009.
PHOTO COURTESY ALTERIS RENEWABLES
By Richard Asinof Contributing Writer
The state’s new “Roadmap for Advancing the Green Economy in Rhode Island” calls for the installation of 100 megawatts of onshore wind power capacity, enough to generate electricity to power up to 325,000 households a year, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
This represents a new direction in renewable energy policy for the state, says Eric Offenberg, chief technical officer for rTerra Renewable Energy Partners, a private renewable energy firm in Middletown. Offenberg, who also is a partner at Middletown-based Sustainable Global Energy (SGE), said he served as “the quarterback” for the road map’s wind section. To reach the capacity goal within the next five years, the state will “target installing 20 megawatts a year,” he said.
Up to this point, Rhode Island had emphasized working with Deepwater Wind to develop offshore wind capability based upon the utility grid model, with Quonset seen as the hub of a wind power supply chain serving the entire East Coast.
Now, according to the road map, smaller-scale, distributed generation – wind power generated from many sources rather than from a large, central site – is also being seen as an important economic engine in the drive for renewable energy.
The proposed power-purchase agreement between National Grid and Deepwater Wind, which would sell electricity from its planned eight-turbine project at 24.4 cents a kilowatt-hour – much higher than current prevailing market rates, is now pending before the R.I. Public Utilities Commission. A written order is expected on April 2 following the PUC’s open meeting on March 30. The project, which would begin generating electricity in 2013, is the forerunner of a much larger-scale project planned in federal waters.
Behind-the-meter wind turbine installations, which provide electricity directly to the onsite user, hold the promise of achieving better returns more quickly, said Offenberg. Such installations displace electricity at the retail rate – currently about 14 cents a kilowatt-hour — at a specific business, school or facility such as a sewage-treatment plant.