Project Bids in for Increasing R.I. Renewable Energy

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Wind and solar projects from across New England and New York are answering Rhode Island’s call for more renewable energy.

The state aims to achieve 1,000 megawatts of renewable electricity by 2020. As of Sept. 30, the state had reached 304 megawatts. Forty-one proposals with a capacity for 2,500 megawatts hope to generate the rest.

Rhode Island’s renewable power can come from solar, wind, biomass, and landfill energy projects across the Northeast with access to the New England power grid.

The bids include solar projects in Maine and offshore wind from Orsted Wind Power North America, formerly called Deepwater Wind. Vineyard Wind and Orsted’s Revolution Wind are both bidding into the request for proposals.

Since Gov. Gina Raimondo announced the 1,000-megawatt goal two years ago, the amount of renewable energy coming to Rhode Island has tripled.

The latest bids will be reviewed by National Grid and the Division of Public Utilities Carriers. Conditional approval will be announced in May. Contracts are scheduled to be executed by July 29, and final approval from the state’s Public Utilities Commission is expected Aug. 30.

The latest round of project submissions was prompted by a 400-megawatt request for proposal issued in September. The state Office of Energy Resources expects the influx of renewable energy to lower energy costs, while helping the economy and environment.

A previous 90-megawatt renewable-energy campaign resulted in the approval of 23.7 megawatts from a 40-turbine wind farm in upstate New York, the Copenhagen Wind Farm. The Block Island Wind Farm is contributing 10.8 megawatts of power. The landfill-gas power plant at the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation in Johnston delivers 22.8 megawatts of to the regional grid.

The latest bidders can receive 10- to 15-year power-purchase agreements. A project must have a capacity of at least 20 megawatts but no more than 400.

The the request for proposals doesn’t forbid projects on farms and open space but conservation and community benefits are considered in the selection process. Economic benefits and impacts on low-income groups will also be evaluated.

The 41 proposals are listed online but are heavily redacted, making it difficult to determine the locations of the projects and whether any conflicts of interest exist with National Grid.