Analysis: Offshore Wind Project Would Provide Economic Benefits To Rhode Island

Deepwater Wind's proposed offshore wind projects could provide significant economic benefits to Rhode Island, according to analysis conducted by Levitan & Associates.

According to the ‘Advisory Opinion on the Economic Development Benefits of the Proposed Block Island Wind Farm,’ Rhode Island stands to gain $107 million if a small offshore wind project were to be constructed. That number rises if the larger, 385 MW project, also proposed by Deepwater Wind, were to be built.

Deepwater Wind plans to develop the 28 MW Block Island Wind Farm in state waters, about three miles off the southeastern coast of Block Island. This demonstration project will include up to eight turbines. The wind farm is expected to provide approximately 1% of Rhode Island's energy needs. Deepwater declined to comment for this story.

In June, Gov. Donald Carcieri, R-R.I., signed legislation that requires that a new power purchase agreement (PPA) between National Grid and Deepwater Wind be filed with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). The revised PPA is currently being reviewed by the PUC, which is expected to make a decision by mid-August.

The legislation also required the Rhode Island Economic Development Corp. (RIEDC) to do two things: hire a power market expert to conduct an analysis of the PPA, and to prepare a report on the economic development benefits of the proposed project.

The report, which was prepared by Levitan & Associates at the request of the RIEDC, says that the Quonset Business Park would benefit the most from the construction of an offshore wind project.

‘Quonset Business Park is well positioned to serve as the nexus for offshore wind project business activities,’ according to the report. ‘There is significant offshore wind potential in the New York and southern New England region and significant interest on the part of New England states for renewable resources to attract supply chain manufacturing and operations investment in RI.’

In February, the Quonset Development Corp. (QDC), which manages the business park, was awarded a $22.3 million transportation investment-generating economic recovery grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

‘The grant will support wind energy manufacturing and logistical operations and will improve marine highway infrastructure at the Quonset Business Park and position it to be a major hub for renewable energy and offshore wind industries in New England,’ the report says.

QDC's board of directors has approved a development agreement/lease option with Deepwater Wind for 117 acres. The company plans to use the Quonset Business Park as a base for manufacturing, assembly and launching of wind turbines. The three parcels of land will be used for foundation manufacturing, assembly and logistical operations. When fully operational, the Deepwater headquarters is expected to support 800 jobs.

‘It's been pretty clear to us for a long time that the key drivers to offshore wind are ports and the barges that are necessary to installing these huge wind turbines,’ says Fred Hashway, director of government affairs and policy at the REDIC.

Hashway says the park's facilities and locations make it ideal not just for Deepwater Wind, but also for additional developers, turbine manufacturers and others in the supply chain.

‘It's located in the geographic sweet spot – between Maine and Virginia,’ he says.

Deepwater Wind also plans to build a large-scale wind farm, with about 106 turbines, which will be located in federal waters about 15 miles from land. The Levitan report says that a larger wind farm proposed by Deepwater would provide even more benefits to the state, with approximately $893 million in economic benefits.

‘Deepwater's investments in [Rhode Island] would help position the state to reap substantial economic development benefits from the anticipated growth of the nascent offshore wind industry in the Northeast United States,’ the report concludes.

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