Rhode Island recognized as leader in offshore wind energy

Rhode Island is leading the nation’s pursuit of offshore wind power, according to a recent report by the National Wildlife Federation.

The report, Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power, which promotes offshore wind energy development to meet growing energy demands, praises Rhode Island as having “set a national precedent in the pursuit of offshore wind power.” Deepwater Wind, a Providence-based company, was approved by the state to begin construction in 2015 of a 30MW wind farm, consisting of five turbines, 3 miles southeast of Block Island. The $300-million project is expected to generate over 125,000 megawatt hours annually – enough to power over 17,000 homes.

“American offshore wind power is finally within reach,” says Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at NWF. “With areas offshore that can power 5 million homes currently available for leasing, we’ve reached a critical moment for state leaders to seize this golden opportunity and create a clean energy future powered by American workers that can protect our wildlife and communities from the dangers of climate change.”

“By every measure, Massachusetts and Rhode Island are clearly leading America’s pursuit of offshore wind power,” the report says. “Both states have shown considerable leadership to date in spurring offshore wind development – efforts which are poised to pay off as the nation’s first projects begin construction off their shores in the coming year.”

The centerpiece of Rhode Island’s efforts, according the report, is “its landmark Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) — a product of years of research, analysis, and stakeholder engagement to guide ocean planning decisions.”

The Ocean SAMP was developed with the aid of Sea Grant expertise to ensure an efficient and environmentally sound offshore wind power planning process that utilized the best science and stakeholder engagement. It encompasses nearly 1,500 square miles of ocean waters off the coast of Rhode Island. In 2010, it became the nation’s first federally recognized SAMP to manage the offshore environment, and is a national model for marine spatial planning.  Through the Ocean SAMP, areas for offshore wind energy development have been identified in both state and federal waters, easing the process of permitting and leasing that have led to the approval of the Block Island Wind Farm.

National Wildlife Federation 2014 report on offshore wind energy in the United States.

National Wildlife Federation 2014 report on offshore wind energy in the United States.

 

“These initial successes have attracted national attention, and a continued commitment by Rhode Island’s leaders to power the Ocean State with offshore wind power is needed to fully realize the clean energy potential off its shores and inspire others to follow,” the report states.

The report highlights other states’ efforts to develop offshore wind power and contains a new analysis showing how the strong, consistent winds offshore can provide power to coastal states right when we need it most, bringing down energy costs and local pollution.

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America’s progress to date in pursuit of offshore wind power

  • America’s First Offshore Wind Projects are on Track for Construction in 2015. Two leading projects, Cape Wind in Massachusetts and the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, are within sight of the finish line. Permits and/or leases and power contracts in hand and plans announced by the developers to begin offshore construction next year.
  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. As a result of significant federal leadership, there is a massive, local clean power opportunity currently available to state energy planners with the capacity to power the equivalent of all households in New Jersey and South Carolina combined. What’s needed now is action by state leaders to drive offshore wind markets and spur critical project contracts forward.
  • Offshore Wind Power Could Save Millions as Part of a Diverse Energy Portfolio. Diversifying the east coast’s energy mix is critical for protecting ratepayers from price spikes in the volatile fossil fuel markets. The report highlights a new 2014 study finding a $350 million per year reduction in energy costs from adding 1,200 MW of offshore wind energy to New England’s grid.
  • Offshore Wind Power Will Spark Massive Job Creation in the United States. In Europe, 70 offshore wind projects across 10 countries are currently supporting over 58,000 jobs in both coastal and inland communities. Today, offshore wind power is a booming global industry with over $20 billion in annual investments projected for the next 10 years.
  • Offshore Wind Power Can Help States Meet New Carbon Pollution Limits. Coastal states have a massive untapped pollution-free energy source sitting right off their shores that can play a major role in meeting the carbon emission reduction targets required by the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan released last month.
  • Offshore Wind Power is an Environmentally Responsible Energy Choice: As decades of experience in Europe indicates, strong environmental requirements can ensure that offshore wind power is sited, constructed, and operated in a manner that protects coastal and marine wildlife. This immense clean energy source offers an incredible opportunity to reduce pollution that threatens current and future generations of people and wildlife.

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Meredith Haas | Rhode Island Sea Grant Research Communications Specialist