Rhode Island Leads Atlantic Coast States in Drive to Tap Offshore Wind Energy

Continued Leadership Can Yield Major Environmental and Economic Benefits for RI

Environment Rhode Island

Contact: Rob Sargent – 617-747-4317

July 10, 2014  – Rhode Island is a leader in the race to reap the environmental and economic benefits from offshore wind, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation,  Catching the Wind: State Actions Needed to Seize the Golden Opportunity of Atlantic Offshore Wind Power . The report, cosponsored by the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment Rhode Island and the Environmental Council of Rhode Island (ECRI), compares the actions by Atlantic Coast states toward progress on offshore wind, with and Rhode Island ranks in the top tier for its commitment making offshore wind a realityThe report also contains a new analysis showing how the strong, consistent winds offshore can provide power to Rhode Island – bringing down energy costs and local pollution.

“The vast offshore wind resource off Rhode Island’s coast can provide tremendous amounts of pollution-free energy; with no fuel costs,” said Rob Sargent, on behalf of Environment Rhode Island.  “The strong commitment shown by Rhode Island state leaders has laid the groundwork meeting our energy needs while tackling the carbon pollution that is altering our climate.”    

According to the report, more than 1.5 million acres off the Atlantic coast have been designated for offshore wind power development, enough to produce over 16,000 megawatts of electricity and power over five million homes, according to a new report from the National Wildlife Federation.  A strong commitment to offshore wind has positioned Rhode Island to be among the first states to capture its share of that resource with one project moving forward (the Deepwater Wind) with a federal lease granted and state regulatory approvals. 

“Climate change is one of the most significant threats of our time and wind can transform our

energy future from dirty and costly to clean and viable,” said Tricia K. Jedele, Vice President and Director of CLF’s Rhode Island Advocacy Center. “Rhode Island has become  the shining example of not just how to get renewable  energy done, but how to do it right. We need Rhode Island’s continued leadership in developing offshore wind power for the future of our economy and for the health of our communities.” 

“Rhode Island should be proud of the strides we have made to advance offshore wind power and the precedent-setting Block Island Wind Farm. The Ocean State is leading the way in siting and building the foundation for the future of renewable energy,” said Jamie Rhodes, President of Environment Council of Rhode Island. “Now is the time for decisive action, to take bold, responsible steps forward to advance a clean energy future that can protect our communities and natural resources from this urgent threat. Rhode Island has proven to be a leader in supporting this growing industry, which is a critical step in building a strong and diverse economy.”

Highlights of Off-Shore Wind Development in Rhode Island include:

  • The Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt offshore wind farm located entirely in Rhode Island, which will power over 17,000 homes annually.
  • A set of protective measures developed by CLF, NRDC, and NWF with Deepwater Wind that will minimize potential impacts on North Atlantic right whales and other marine mammals from underwater noise and construction vessels during site assessment and characterization stages.
  • Over 165,000 acres of federal waters in Rhode Island Sound has been leased to Deepwater Wind for offshore wind development, an area with an estimated 3,000 MW of electricity generation potential. 

“The Atlantic Ocean is a clean energy and job-producing goldmine,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager for climate and energy at the National Wildlife Federation. “With areas offshore that can power 5 million homes currently available for leasing, it is 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.”

Highlights of Catching the Wind include:

  • Areas Already Designated for Offshore Wind Development Could Power Over 5 Million American Homes. This 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 continued action by Rhode Island’s 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 Rhode Island’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 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

Thanks to the leadership of the federal government, forward-thinking state leaders, resolute wind industry pioneers, and engaged stakeholders, this transformational clean energy source is finally within reach. Catching the Wind highlights key progress made to date in Rhode Island and other states along the coast, finding a strong correlation between proactive state efforts and tangible steps forward in advancing offshore wind power.

In five recommendations, the report challenges Rhode Island leaders to move forward with the following key actions to bring transformational offshore wind power online:

  1.  Set a bold goal for offshore wind power in Rhode Island’s energy plan.
  2. Take action to ensure a competitive market for offshore wind power by passing and implementing policies to directly advance offshore wind power and reduce pollution across the electricity sector, pursuing regional market-building opportunities, and supporting key federal incentives.
  3.  Advance critical contracts for offshore wind projects, including facilitating and approving necessary power purchase contracts and rate recovery proposals and pursuing regional procurement opportunities.
  4. Ensure an efficient, environmentally responsible leasing process, working closely with the federal government and key experts and stakeholders to ensure transparency and strong protections for coastal and marine wildlife as offshore wind development moves forward.
  5. Invest in key research, initiatives, and infrastructure helpful for advancing offshore wind development including baseline environmental data, stakeholder engagement initiatives, opportunities to maximize local supply chain and job creation, and upgrades to transmission or port facilities.

Environment Rhode Island is a statewide, citizen-based environmental advocacy organization.



 [R1]Link to report on Env RI Website