Wind power company poised to move to R.I.

Source: By Alex Kuffner, Providence Journal • Posted: Wednesday, August 21, 2019

PROVIDENCE — The push to transform Rhode Island into a hub for the offshore wind industry is set to take another step forward with the proposed move of a second British turbine maintenance company into the Ocean State.

United Kingdom-based Boston Energy is planning to lease an office in the former Route 195 area of downtown Providence and hire 52 full-time technicians and support staff over the next four years. The company’s decision follows the announcement in June that GEV Wind Power, another turbine service firm that is also headquartered in the United Kingdom, plans to open its U.S. headquarters in the Quonset Business Park, in North Kingstown, and hire 125 workers.

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s Investment Committee is set to meet Wednesday to consider awarding $886,250 in tax incentives to Boston Energy. If the committee votes in favor of the package, it would go to the corporation’s board on Monday for final approval.

“Rhode Island has led the way in the offshore wind industry and this development further demonstrates that we are well-positioned to continue to be the industry hub as we approach our goal of increasing renewable energy tenfold by next year,” Gov. Gina Raimondo said in a statement. “Clean energy jobs are the jobs of the future, and I’m thrilled that yet another company in the wind sector supply chain has chosen to make the Ocean State home.”

Raimondo has set a goal of increasing the supply of power from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources to 1,000 megawatts by 2020. That number currently stands at 371 megawatts, up from about 100 megawatts when the governor announced the target in 2016, according to the state Office of Energy Resources.

At about the same time, the number in Rhode Island of clean energy jobs, which includes positions in renewable energy and energy efficiency, has increased from about 9,000 in 2014 to 16,000 this year. It is expected to continue to go up withthe development of a number of offshore wind farms proposed off Rhode Island and Massachusetts, despite friction between the industry and commercial fishermen.

Boston Energy’s decision to open an office on land freed up by the relocation of Route 195 could signal the creation of a cluster of wind businesses in Providence. Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor said he expects at least two more companies in the industry to open offices in the same part of the city.

“We’re excited that wind energy companies are interested in Rhode Island’s emerging innovation ecosystem,” he said in an interview. “The advantage of the 195 district … is that professionals seeking to conduct R&D and otherwise engage in innovation are energized at the prospect of being next door to one another, trading notes and fostering an intellectual environment that yields results.”

Boston Energy’s technicians service and inspect wind turbines, both offshore and on land. The company’s clients have included Siemens Gamesa, which has developed a series of large offshore wind farms in the United Kingdom that include the 175-turbine London Array and the 140-turbine Greater Gabbard project.

Pryor met with Boston Energy at an offshore wind conference in May. It was at the same conference that he met with GEV Wind Power. Raimondo also met with representatives of both companies to urge them to move to Rhode Island.

In exchange for 10 years of incentives, Boston Energy must commit to operating in Rhode Island for 12 years. According to the Commerce Corporation, a third-party analysis concluded that, when the tax credits are subtracted out, the company would generate $2.3 million in net revenues for the state over the 12-year period, and, once the new hires are in place, an increase of $6.35 million in Rhode Island’s annual gross domestic product.

Pryor just got back from a three-day trip last week to Denmark, where he visited the corporate headquarters of Ørsted, the global offshore wind developer. Ørsted, which has an office in Providence, owns the Block Island Wind Farm, the only offshore wind farm so far in the United States, and is planning several more projects to supply power to Rhode Island, Connecticut and Long Island.

During the trip, Ørsted helped connect Pryor with other Danish companies involved in offshore wind. Ørsted executives are set to have follow-up discussions with Raimondo, according to Pryor.

As to whether Rhode Island could land any of the big European companies that manufacture wind turbines or their components, Pryor is hopeful. But he said that operations and maintenance jobs are also “extraordinarily important” to the economy.

“They will far outlast the manufacturing jobs,” he said.