Rhode Island has given its regulatory approval for the first large-scale wind farm to be built in the United States. This approval is a significant step forward for the project.
Last year, Massachusetts selected a developer, Vineyard Wind, to build a wind farm for it in federal waters off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Because Rhode Island fishermen operate in those waters, that state also had the opportunity to decide whether the project fits within its laws and interests. In its testimony on this question before Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), Acadia Center reiterated the importance of offshore wind for Rhode Island and the region’s transition to a healthy clean energy economy.
Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 analysis forecasts that to meet greenhouse gas reductions of 45% by the year 2030, the Northeast must take aggressive action to shift our electricity to clean renewable sources, including approximately 6,400 MW of offshore wind. The 800 MW from Vineyard Wind’s project will be the first serious step in that direction.
The CRMC ruled in favor of this position and certified the project.
However, Acadia Center also drew attention to the need for developers like Vineyard Wind to make the process for these projects much more inclusive and collaborative, bringing in all affected communities and industries, like commercial fisheries, earlier.
In this case, the fisheries testified to projected losses because of the way the wind farm will be sited. In the end, Vineyard Wind offered the fisheries a compensation package. But if they had been actively engaged earlier, all parties may have seen better outcomes.
The CRMC encouraged a more collaborative process when Deepwater Wind, now Orsted, developed the Block Island Wind Farm project in Rhode Island waters. This framework could be used going forward for additional projects in the near term. In the meantime, Acadia Center will work with people in government, business, and local communities to develop policies that support offshore wind off the coast of Rhode Island, with special attention to embedding greater inclusion in future projects.
Read Acadia Center’s testimony before the CRMC here.
Hank Webster is Staff Attorney and Rhode Island Director at Acadia Center, based in the Providence office. He works to implement Acadia Center’s initiatives on transportation and clean energy in Rhode Island and regionally.