Deepwater Wind to invest $250 million in Rhode Island to build utility-scale offshore wind farm

Source: By Alex Kuffner, Providence Journal • Posted: Friday, June 1, 2018

Graphic by Tom Murphyâ–˛

PROVIDENCE — Deepwater Wind will invest $250 million in Rhode Island and use a local workforce of more than 800 to build a utility-scale offshore wind farm that would be able to meet the electric needs of 200,000 households in the state, CEO Jeffrey Grybowski and Governor Gina Raimondo announced Wednesday morning.

The investment by the Providence-based company will include $40 million in improvements to the Port of Providence, the port facilities in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown and potentially one or more other ports in Rhode Island, where Deepwater would stage construction of the 400-megawatt project that is being called Revolution Wind.

The 800 construction jobs required to assemble and install up to 50 wind turbines for the project in federal waters in Rhode Island Sound would be supplemented by 50 permanent operations and maintenance jobs.

The economic development estimates for the $1-billion-plus project were released at a waterfront news conference at the Port of Providence to celebrate the state’s selection last week of Deepwater to develop the next phase of offshore wind power in Rhode Island.

It is one of two major offshore wind projects that are set to go forward in regional waters. As part of the same renewable energy procurement process, Massachusetts announced on the same day that it was moving forward with an 800-megawatt project called Vineyard Wind that would be built in the same general area of waters as the Revolution wind farm.

Deepwater completed the first offshore wind farm in the nation, a five-turbine test project near Block Island, nearly two years ago. The company had always planned to follow that up with a much larger development in a 256-square-mile swath of waters that it’s leasing from the federal government between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

If Rhode Island took on the risk of going first — and the higher price of power that came from the 30-megawatt demonstration project — then it would be in pole position to become a construction hub for the nascent industry, the company promised in 2008 when it first made its pitch.

“It was just about a decade ago that we talked about building offshore wind at a big scale and at a low cost, and creating a lot of jobs while doing that,” Grybowski said. “And we are keeping that promise today.”

“This is a big industry,” he continued. “We will fill this lot up. We will fill up this port in a blink of an eye with this project. And we will need more room. We will be using Quonset. And Rhode Island will be the centerpiece of our plan to build out this huge clean energy project.”

The hope is to position the state to stage other offshore wind projects. Deepwater is also working on proposals near the Revolution wind site to supply power to Long Island and Connecticut. The company is developing a project in Maryland and will look to respond to coming requests for proposals in New Jersey and New York. Other companies also have proposals in the works.

“We are finding new industries, like offshore wind, where we can be the national, international leader,” Raimondo said. “We can move our state to a place of renewable, clean, sustainable energy and create thousands of jobs in the process.”

In one example of the potential benefits to other companies, Deepwater will need at least two more maintenance boats in addition to the one it had built for the Block Island Wind Farm. That vessel was fabricated by Blount Boats, of Warren, and is operated by Atlantic Wind Transfers, of North Kingstown.

With the new wind farm, the state will be more than two-thirds of the way to Raimondo’s goal of using 1,000 megawatts of clean energy by 2020. Rhode Island is currently supplied with 294 megawatts of clean energy. The Office of Energy Resources is working on an RFP for an additional 400 megawatts to be issued this summer.

The price of power from the Revolution project is still uncertain. Deepwater was required to quote prices in the proposal it made in response to the procurement process. But those prices, as well as the prices submitted by Vineyard Wind and one other competitor, Bay State Wind, have not been released to the public.

State energy commissioner Carol Grant has said that Rhode Island ratepayers will realize savings from the Revolution project. She and Grybowski also said that the price will be significantly lower than the price from the Block Island Wind Farm, which started at 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, is going up 3.5 percent a year, and will ultimately cost ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars in above-market costs.

“It will be dramatically lower than any price that anyone has ever seen for offshore wind to date,” Grybowski said Wednesday. “Dramatically lower, competitive with traditional sources of fuel. Ratepayers are going to be very happy.”

It is also unclear whether the project will have an energy storage component. Deepwater submitted proposals as part of the RFP that would incorporate pumped hydro and batteries. The specifics will be settled during negotiations with utility National Grid for a long-term power purchase agreement that Grybowski expects to be filed for approval by state regulators later this year.

Another question that still needs to be answered is where a transmission cable from the wind farm will make landfall. Grybowski said it may be near Quonset, where a major substation is located, and ruled out Narragansett, where the Block Island cable came in, and Somerset, which his company had considered. / (401) 277-7457