One of two wind turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach that comprise Dominion Energy’s Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. (Sarah Vogelsong/ Virginia Mercury)
The state needs more offshore wind to meet its aggressive decarbonization mandates, lawmakers and environmentalists agree.
But not if the price isn’t right.
Which is the reason Rhode Island Energy has opted not to award a contract to the only development team that responded to its solicitation to buy more offshore wind power. The state’s primary utility operator on Tuesday announced it will not ink a deal with Orsted A/S and Eversource Energy LLC for a second offshore wind farm powering Rhode Island because the companies’ proposal failed to meet state requirements.
“The economic development benefits included in the proposal were weighted and valued appropriately by our evaluation team, but ultimately it was determined those features did not outweigh the affordability concerns and other [state law] standards,” David Bonenberger, president of Rhode Island Energy, said in a statement.
Orsted and Eversource were the only team to submit a response to what was supposed to be a competitive state solicitation to buy up to 1,000 more megawatts of wind-powered electricity. The proposal called for an 884-megawatt wind farm, known as Revolution Wind 2, off the coast of Block Island – in the same federal lease area as its already contracted Revolution Wind project.
The offshore wind power duo are also behind a slew of other wind projects up and down the East Coast, and Orsted owns and operates the Block Island Wind Farm.
Meaghan Wims, an Orsted spokesperson, said in a statement Monday the company was “disappointed” its project wasn’t selected.
“This project would put Rhode Island’s 100% clean energy future in reach, delivering renewable energy to hundreds of thousands of homes and creating more than $2 billion in direct economic benefits to the state, with historic investments in local union jobs, workforce training, ports and the supply chain,” Wims said. “We will assess our options for Revolution Wind 2.”
Rhode Island Energy will share further details of its analysis of the proposal, and why it didn’t meet state criteria under the Affordable Clean Energy Security Act, in filings to state utility regulators within the next 60 days. That includes the opportunity for Orsted and Eversource to respond,, the company said.
Bonenberger remained bullish on the company’s commitment to offshore wind, insisting that the decision not to award a contract “doesn’t mean we are abandoning our commitment.”
“In fact, we are already in discussions with state and regional leaders about new opportunities to bring more offshore wind to the state, which we hope to progress in the coming months,” Bonenberger said.
That will likely include a new request for proposals, suggested by Gov. Dan McKee.
“In the upcoming weeks we look forward to working with Rhode Island Energy, the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers and other parties to successfully advance a new offshore wind project procurement under the ACES Act,” McKee said in a statement.
Asked if Orsted would submit another proposal in response to a new solicitation, Wims said “we will assess our options for Revolution Wind 2.”
One thing is certain: the timeline for bringing more offshore wind power to the Ocean State will be pushed back.
The state originally anticipated negotiating a contract this fall to submit to the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission for approval in December. But opting against the only proposal submitted means the solicitation process will have to start anew.
The nascent industry has already been hampered by delays at the state and federal permitting levels for years. Indeed, four years have passed since the PUC gave its stamp of approval to the Revolution Wind contract. The project cleared a major hurdle with the completion of federal environmental review on July 17, but is still awaiting its final approval from the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Assuming all goes as planned, developers anticipate starting construction in 2024, with the wind farm operational by the following year.
Meanwhile, the clock is ticking down on Rhode Island’s ambitious decarbonization goals, including a first-in-the-nation mandate to have 100% of state electricity needs offset from renewable energy by 2030.
A 2021 report by state-commissioned consultant The Brattle Group concluded this landmark mandate was possible, but requires the state to buy 1.5 times as much renewable energy as it already had at the time. A second wind offshore wind farm was crucial, with another 600 megawatts fulfilling about 35% of state electricity needs by 2030 single-handedly, the report stated.
“We need new offshore wind resources to provide clean, renewable energy to Rhode Island, and it’s extremely disappointing that the state’s latest procurement process has not resulted in any new development,” James Crowley, a senior attorney for Conservation Law Foundation, said in a statement on Wednesday. “Ramping up the development of clean energy is a major response to the crisis we’re facing, and the state needs to get moving.”
The economic benefits of more offshore wind power are not to be discounted, either. Orsted and Eversource said that if selected, Revolution Wind 2 would bring an estimated $2 billion in economic benefits to the state, with plans to invest another $35 million in port infrastructure upgrades and opening a national engineering hub in Rhode Island accompanied by 75 new jobs.
Climate Jobs Rhode Island, a coalition of labor and environmental groups, highlighted the well-paying, union jobs that have resulted from offshore wind activities already.
“Rhode Island was the first state in the country to build offshore wind and we need to build more of it if we want to tackle the climate crisis, lower energy costs and create good-paying union jobs in our community,” the organization said in a statement.
GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX
Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.