Revolution Wind project clears major federal regulatory hurdle

By: - August 22, 2023 11:21 am

The five 6-megawatt wind turbine Block Island Wind Farm located 3 miles off of Block Island is shown in this 2016 photo. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

The first utility-scale offshore wind farm powering Rhode Island cleared another major hurdle with federal regulators on Tuesday.

The U.S. Department of Interior Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) record of decision allows developers of the Revolution Wind Farm to move ahead with plans for a 704-megawatt wind farm off the coast of Block Island. While not the last approval – review of the more detailed construction, operations and maintenance plan is still pending – the record of decision marks the final federal environmental assessment under the National Environmental Policy Act, according to BOEM.

The wind farm from co-developers Orsted A/S and Eversource Energy will bring 400 megawatts of energy to the Ocean State, which is enough to power 200,000 homes, according to project partners. (The remainder of the power is being sold to Connecticut.)

Project developers and state officials in a joint statement on Tuesday praised BOEM’s decision as a “major milestone.”

“Revolution Wind will be key to Rhode Island and Connecticut’s clean energy future, and we’re grateful for the leadership from the Biden Administration, as well as our state partners and federal delegations, to grow the region’s offshore wind sector,” said David Hardy, group executive vice president and CEO of Americas at Orsted. “With the federal Record of Decision, we now advance Revolution Wind to the construction phase, bringing good-paying jobs to hundreds of local union construction workers, keeping local ports busy with assembly and marshaling activities and further growing the local supply chain.”

Onshore construction activities are expected to begin “in the coming weeks,” with offshore work ramping up in 2024 ahead of a targeted 2025 operational date, according to the developers.

The project will include up to 65 turbines, scaled down from an original maximum of 100, as was recommended by the Rhode Island Coastal Management Council in May to minimize environmental disruptions.

The wind-powered electricity is also crucial to helping Rhode Island meet its ambitious decarbonization goals, including net-zero emissions by 2050 and 100% renewable electricity by 2030, said Gov. Dan McKee.

“The Revolution Wind project will play a significant role in advancing the state’s Act on Climate law, growing our clean energy economy, and achieving our 100% renewable energy standard objectives,” McKee said in a statement.

BOEM in an environmental review in July noted major disturbances the project will create for the environment and the fishermen whose livelihoods depend on it, but concluded that those adverse impacts will happen even without the project because of climate change and other wind projects already underway.

Efforts to minimize or reduce these disruptions are detailed in the developers construction and operations plans, which regulators are expected to issue a decision on this fall.


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Nancy Lavin
Nancy Lavin

Nancy Lavin is a reporter covering State House politics along with energy and environmental issues for Rhode Island Current.