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.
Vineyard Wind cleared a major hurdle on Tuesday when Rhode Island coastal regulators determined the $2-billion wind farm proposed in offshore waters to be consistent with state policies.
Although the 84-turbine project is planned in Atlantic Ocean waters south of Martha’s Vineyard where the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management holds lead permitting authority, it needs consistency certifications from the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council and its counterpart in Massachusetts primarily because it would affect the states’ fishing industries.
With the Massachusetts approval still under consideration, the decision from the Rhode Island coastal council represents a step forward for a project that has divided opinion and would have come as a relief to Vineyard Wind.
Read the full article from the Providence Journal here.
BOSTON – Today, Massachusetts utilities, in coordination with the MA Department of Energy Resources, selected Vineyard Wind’s offshore wind proposal and will begin contract negotiations. Simultaneously, Rhode Island selected one of the other two bidders in the competitive selection process, Deepwater Wind, to build a new wind farm for the state. The decision moves large-scale offshore wind one step closer to construction in the Northeast, and it expands Rhode Island’s offshore wind capacity by more than ten times. Vineyard Wind’s winning project in Massachusetts will provide 800 MW of electricity to the state—enough to power about 440,000 homes—with the first phase coming online as early as 2021. The Deepwater Wind project will provide 400 MW of electricity, powering about 225,000 homes.
“Acadia Center congratulates Massachusetts and Rhode Island for taking these crucial steps that cement them as leaders on offshore wind,” said Deborah Donovan, Acadia Center’s Massachusetts Director. “Massachusetts is now leading the region and the country in offshore wind development and is making strides to fulfill its promise to clean energy. The Commonwealth is locking in its position as the offshore wind hub for the Northeast, and both states will reap early economic benefits from their commitment to this clean energy technology.”
In addition to providing clean energy, the Vineyard Wind proposal contains several provisions to boost the Massachusetts economy, including use of the New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal and $15 million of investment in a Massachusetts Offshore Wind Accelerator Program. Vineyard Wind expects the project to generate about 3,600 jobs. The proposal also includes innovative community partnerships, support for low-income ratepayers and a demonstration of battery energy storage benefits. Acadia Center urges the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources to advance the process to secure these benefits by submitting negotiated contracts to the Department of Public Utilities for approval on schedule, by July 31, 2018.
Rhode Island’s selection of Deepwater Wind’s Revolution Wind project will also create hundreds of local and indirect jobs. Erika Niedowski, Acadia Center Policy Advocate in Rhode Island, said of the project, “With the Block Island wind farm, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to produce electricity through offshore wind. Today’s announcement shows the state’s commitment to making clean energy generation available to all residents while spurring the economy and reducing climate pollution.”
“Massachusetts and Rhode Island are setting the example for how the Northeast states can commit to and follow through on large-scale offshore wind developments,” said Emily Lewis, policy analyst at Acadia Center. “Today’s announcement should inspire all the Northeast states to set their own offshore wind commitments, and states with existing processes should keep things moving forward. We hope to hear from Connecticut on their RFP in June as planned, for example.”
Following Massachusetts’ announcement that it would bring 1600 MW of offshore wind to the state by 2027, New York committed to 2400 MW by 2030 and New Jersey to 3500 MW by 2030. Currently, as part of its commitment, New York is soliciting input to inform an upcoming request for proposals. Connecticut is currently evaluating three offshore wind proposals for up to 200 MW. Acadia Center’s EnergyVision 2030 suggests that New England and New York should develop 6400 MW of offshore wind by 2030 to stay on track to meet their emissions reduction targets.