- Rhode Island will open a competitive request for proposals to procure up to 600 MW of new offshore wind, Governor Gina Raimondo, D, said Tuesday.
- In January, Raimondo issued Executive Order 20-01 with a target of meeting 100% of Rhode Island's electricity demand with renewable energy by 2030, the earliest such state target in the country. The 600 MW of offshore wind when combined with existing commitments, would allow the state to meet about 82% of its estimated 2030 demand with renewables, said Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources spokesperson Robert Beadle.
- The RFP "will be developed by National Grid, with oversight by the state Office of Energy Resources, and is subject to approval by the Public Utilities Commission," Raimondo said in a press release. A draft RFP will be filed this fall and, if approved by the PUC, a final RFP is expected to come out in early 2021.
The offshore wind power in this procurement will be able to meet a significant chunk of Rhode Island's estimated electricity demand in 2030, about 36%, according to Beadle.
At 600 MW, the capacity stemming from the RFP will be 50% greater than Rhode Island's 400 MW share of the Revolution Wind project, which is being developed by Orsted and Eversource and will also provide 304 MW to Connecticut.
Rhode Island is also home to the first and only operational wind project in the U.S. — the 30 MW Block Island facility.
Referring to the state's 100% renewable target, Raimondo said "offshore wind will help us achieve that bold, but achievable goal, while creating jobs and cementing our status as a major hub in the nation's burgeoning offshore wind industry."
In March 2017, Raimondo set a goal to make the state's energy system 10 times cleaner by the end of 2020. According to the Office of Energy Resources, the state is more than 90% of the way to achieving that goal. As of the second quarter of 2020, Rhode Island had 933 MW of renewable energy, nine times greater than what it had in 2016.
"Offshore wind can also help our electric system meet winter peak demand with stability-priced clean electricity, helping temper power price spikes faced by local homes and businesses," State Energy Commissioner Nicholas Ucci said in the press release.
Beadle and National Grid spokesperson Ted Kresse both pointed to permitting as a key challenge to advancing offshore wind projects.
"[T]he federal permitting of some projects has been delayed, and until there’s greater clarity on those issues being resolved, the operational date of those projects remains unclear," Kresse said.
Beadle expressed optimism in the state's ability to move offshore wind development forward.
"We are confident in Rhode Island's ability to thoughtfully balance various interests and ... advance those matters related to [offshore wind] development within our jurisdiction. Should an RFP be approved by the [Rhode Island] Public Utilities Commission, we anticipate significant market interest and competitive bidding," Beadle said.
Any contracts that result from the competitive bidding process will require separate regulatory approval from the RFP, said Rhode Island Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor.
The U.S. has a total offshore wind pipeline greater than 28,000 MW in federal lease areas issued to date, with 14 projects totaling 9,112 MW expected to be operational by 2026, according to the American Wind Energy Association.