The Block Island Wind Farm stands 3 miles off of Block Island. (Photo by Scott Eisen/Getty Images)
After an initial attempt to buy more offshore wind power through a competitive solicitation failed, state leaders are trying again.
Gov. Dan McKee on Thursday announced that the state, through utility operator Rhode Island Energy, will issue a new request for proposals (RFP) to buy up to 1,200 megawatts of wind-powered electricity. The news comes after an initial attempt a year ago yielded only one response, which was subsequently determined not to meet state requirements, including those around affordability.
Details of the new RFP, expected to be published in October, were not immediately available. There are at least two key differences from the prior solicitation: the amount of energy the state could buy, and the coordination with other state requests.
Last year’s solicitation sought up to 1,000 megawatts of energy; this time, the proposal offers to buy up to 1,200 megawatts, mirroring the maximum cap of solicitations in other states, including Massachusetts.
The new RFP is also being published at the same time that Massachusetts and Connecticut are opening up their own solicitations for more offshore wind power, offering a “unique offshore wind industry opportunity and economies of scale across southern New England,” according to McKee’s office. In other words, a developer could create a much bigger wind farm and split the energy among two or three states, as the Revolution Wind Farm developers have opted to do with its 700-megawatt wind farm, which will provide power to both Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Elected officials and environmental advocates insist that offshore wind energy is critical to meeting state mandates around decarbonization and renewable electricity, 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.
“It’s more important than ever that we continue to push for new opportunities to expand offshore wind generation in Rhode Island while ensuring it is affordable for future generations,” McKee said in a statement. “Rhode Island Energy recognizes the need for urgency in bringing more renewables online and I’m appreciative of their efforts to get another offshore wind RFP released.”
Responses to the new solicitation will be due in early 2024, with a potential selection by the summer of 2024, according to the press release.
A spokesperson for Orsted A/S and Eversource Energy, the co-developers of the Revolution Wind Farm and the sole team to respond to the state’s earlier bid, said previously that the team would “assess our options” when asked if it would try again on the new RFP.
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