The Block Island Wind Farm is a rightful point of pride for Rhode Island. The first offshore wind-energy project installed and doing what it is supposed to do – generate electricity from the wind. But that story is in danger of becoming a fiction.
The wind project was envisioned to be the first in the nation but also capitalize on its first-mover advantage and set up Rhode Island as a national leader in the technology. And with it, the jobs and economic development that come with it. In fact, this commitment both from the state and from Deepwater Wind LLC was a key part of the project a decade ago and reaffirmed three years ago.
But more than a decade from the start of this process, its promise seems to be swept out to sea by countervailing winds.
Deepwater’s successor, Orsted US Offshore Wind, appears to have put a wind farm to be built off the Long Island coast ahead of its Rhode Island-based Revolution Wind project. And the state has fallen years behind in the development of its two major ports, in Providence and at the Quonset Business Park, to the terminal in New Bedford that Massachusetts invested upward of $100 million in.
What to do? For starters, Rhode Island needs to create a single touchpoint for offshore-wind projects as opposed to multiple entities often working at cross-purposes (sound familiar?). Secondly, Orsted needs to live up to its commitments, ones made that helped create an enterprise that it paid $510 million for late last year.
Because if we don’t, we should not be surprised if Rhode Island finds itself without the major stake it envisioned in the energy of the future.