Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff
PROVIDENCE — With the announcement of its second offshore wind facility, Rhode Island widens its lead in the rapidly emerging U.S. offshore wind industry.
Assuming state and federal permits are granted, the Revolution Wind project would begin construction in 2020 and start producing electricity by 2023, according to Deepwater Wind. Some 800 workers will build about 50 turbines. Once completed, the facility would require 50 employees to operate.
During a large press event May 30 at the Port of Providence, Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski said the latest wind farm is one of many that will make Rhode Island an economic center for wind energy. To show its commitment to expanding the offshore wind industry, the renewable-energy developer will spend $40 million for upgrades at ProvPort and the port at the Quonset Business Park.
“There’s no reason why the ports of Rhode Island can’t be one of the major hubs to build out this entire industry on the Atlantic seaboard,” Grybowski said.
The $1 billion-plus Revolution Wind facility will be built in the 256-square-mile federal Wind Energy Area between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. It’s the same area Deepwater Wind intends to build the 90-megawatt, 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm, a project that would deliver power to southeast Long Island.
The cost to ratepayers for Revolution Wind, per the power-purchase agreement with National Grid, won’t be revealed until late summer when an application is submitted to the state Public Utilities Commission. In fact, most of the project's key details haven't been made public.
Grybowski said the price per kilowatt-hour will be dramatically lower than the 20-year contract for the Block Island Wind Farm and “competitive” with fossil-fuel power generation.
As a homegrown energy, offshore wind is expected to boost local business. Construction and operation of Revolution Wind is projected to pump $250 million into the state economy.
Although Deepwater Wind has opened an office in New Bedford, Mass., Grybowski said he has no plans to use the recently established wind energy center at the city’s port.
A custom $4 million crew transport ferry was built by Blount Boats Inc. in Warren to service the Deepwater Wind project. Two larger vessels are expected for the Revolution Wind project. The vessels would run out of Quonset and be operated by Rhode Island Fast Ferry.
“It was big when it was built,” Grybowski said standing next to the 69-foot-long catamaran. “Now everybody wants a bigger boat.”
By displacing fossil-fuel power generation, the 400-megawatt Revolution Wind facility is expected to cut emissions by 650,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually.
The transmission line from the offshore Wind Energy Area is likely to connect to the mainland power grid at a substation at the Quonset Business Park.
Grybowski said he didn't expect it to take 10 years to build the first offshore wind farm. The Block Island Wind Farm was originally planned for 100 turbines but was reduced to a five, and is often referred to as a “pilot project.”
Revolution Wind is the real deal, Grybowski said. “It is 10 times the size of the Block Island project. It is an enormous, clean-energy machine.”
In addition to Revolution Wind and the South Fork Wind Farm, Deepwater Wind is bidding on a 200-megawatt wind farm offshore of Connecticut. The winner of the bid is expected to be announced by the end of June. Deepwater Wind is developing the 20-megawatt Skipjack Wind project off the coast of Maryland. By the end of the year, Deepwater Wind also expects to submit bids for projects off the coasts of New York and New Jersey.
None of the projects have announced power-purchase agreements. Public hearings are expected for the power-purchase agreement and other portions of the Revolution Wind project that require permits.
The Revolution Wind application was submitted through a joint vetting process with Massachusetts and included onshore energy-storage projects such as a lithium battery storage facility and a pumped hydro station in Northfield, Mass. Grybowski said National Grid will decide if they will be included in this project.