R.I. announces plans to develop a 600MW offshore wind farm

GOV. GINA M. RAIMONDO on Tuesday announced plans to seek a developer to build a new, 600MW offshore wind project, adding to the state's renewable energy portfolio including the Block Island Wind Farm pictured here. / COURTESY ORSTED U.S. OFFSHORE WIND

PROVIDENCE – Rhode Island is pursuing plans for another offshore wind project to add to the state’s growing renewable energy portfolio, Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced on Tuesday.

The state plans to publish a request for proposals for a 600-megawatt offshore wind farm which would be built in federally-designated waters off the coast of Rhode Island or Massachusetts, the exact location of which has not been determined, according to R.I. State Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci.

Ucci described the announcement as the first step in a long process, estimating that the project, if approved by state and federal regulatory agencies, would not begin generating power until the “back half of this decade.”

The project would provide enough power to fulfill 36% of the state’s energy needs by 2030, helping fulfill the governor’s ambitious goals to generate 100% of the state’s power needs by renewable sources by 2030, Ucci said. When taken with commitments for other renewable energy projects slated to be up and running by 2030, the state is 82% of the way toward fulfilling that goal, Ucci said.

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In addition to approval by the R.I. Public Utilities Commission, a new offshore wind project would also be subject to review and approval by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Sixteen proposed wind farms up and down the Eastern Seaboard with signed lease agreements are still waiting for BOEM approval, some facing significant delays that jeopardize their project timelines and tax credits. BOEM is expected to issue its decision on the first of these projects, an 84-turbine farm off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard, later this year.

Revolution Wind, a separate, 700-megawatt project also slated for waters off Rhode Island from developers Orsted U.S. Offshore Wind Power and Eversource Energy is also awaiting federal approval.

Ucci said the new RFP would not compete with existing projects, and that analysis suggests demand for offshore wind will exceed the pipeline of wind farms already in the works. 

The RFP would be developed by National Grid with oversight by the State Office of Energy Resources, and issued to the marketplace in early 2021.

Rhode Island currently boasts the only operational offshore wind farm off the coast of Block Island.

Nancy Lavin is a PBN staff writer. You may reach her at Lavin@PBN.com.

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