R.I. selects Deepwater for 400 MW wind farm

PROVIDENCE – Deepwater Wind LLC has been selected by Rhode Island to build a 400-megawatt offshore wind farm called the Revolution Wind project, which will be located southwest of Martha’s Vineyard and east of Block Island.

The Ocean State selected Deepwater through a competitive bidding event held by Massachusetts, through which the Bay State selected Vineyard Wind to build an 800-megawatt wind farm in the same general area as the Deepwater project.

The R.I. Office of Energy Resources worked with the Bay State, allowing it first choice in projects for its request for proposals, and then selected Deepwater Wind’s proposal at 400 megawatts. In addition to Vineyard Wind and Deepwater, Bay State Wind took part in the bidding for the Massachusetts wind energy farm.

Despite being half the size of the Vineyard Wind bid, the Revolution Wind project will be more than 10 times the size of Deepwater’s Block Island wind farm, which has five turbines.

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The company has previously identified three Southcoast cities – New Bedford, Fall River and Somerset – as possible fabrication sites for a Massachusetts wind farm, and used the Port of Providence and the Quonset Business Park for its Block Island project, but said that the company had not yet decided on sites for the new project.

A spokesman for the R.I. Office of Energy Resources, Robert Beadle said that Deepwater did not know about the Rhode Island selection until Wednesday, the same day that Massachusetts announced it had selected its project. He said that the OER expects that the project will bring jobs and strong economic growth to Rhode Island but that staging details will be released more fully later in the project’s process. The project will leverage the Federal Offshore Wind tax credit.

Beadle also noted that the project is expected to “produce significant energy cost savings for Rhode Island consumers,” but added that the estimated energy rates from the project are confidential at the moment. More information would be provided in public hearings at a later date.

The electricity rates for the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm were a point of contention when it was being developed. In the first year of operation, the National Grid agreed to purchase the energy produced by the farm at 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, with a 3.5 percent yearly increase throughout the length of the two-decade long contract. Currently, the standard offer base rate for residential customers in Rhode Island (a charge that National Grid only passes through from its various sources of electricity) is 8.3 cents per kilowatt hour.

“Rhode Island pioneered American offshore wind energy, and it’s only fitting that the Ocean State continues to be the vanguard of this growing industry,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski in a statement. “We applaud Governor Raimondo for her bold commitment to a clean energy future. We are building a new industry here in Rhode Island while driving down the cost of clean energy. Revolution Wind will mean lots of jobs for Rhode Island and major investments in local infrastructure.”

The OER said that the project was expected to follow a similar timeline to the Massachusetts proposal, which said previously that it could begin construction as soon as 2022. A spokeswoman for Deepwater confirmed that the project would be in the same area between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard that the company won the rights to develop a wind farm in 2013.

“Rhode Island made history when we built the first offshore wind farm in the United States,” said Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in a statement. “Today, we are doing it again. This new, large-scale offshore wind project will bring clean and low-cost power to Rhode Islanders and further diversify our energy resources – all while adding good-paying jobs to our growing economy.”

Estimated project costs and estimated electricity rates were not available at time of publication. The OER said that the project remains subject to contract negotiations with National Grid and is subject to review by the R.I. Public Utilities Commission, as well as federal authorities.

Chris Bergenheim is the PBN web editor.