Amid an effort to tackle both climate change and mounting energy costs, National Grid has finalized a twenty-year contract to buy and distribute energy from Revolution Wind, which will become the largest offshore wind farm to provide electricity in Rhode Island.
The 400-megawatt wind farm, which will be located 15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, is anticipated to open in 2023, according to the Providence Journal.
The contract will cut energy costs by an estimated 90 million dollars over the next twenty-years and supply clean energy jobs to Rhode Islanders, said Nicholas Ucci, deputy commissioner of energy at the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources.
“Currently we estimate that Revolution Wind will reduce carbon by the equivalent of taking 100,000 passenger cars off the road,” Ucci said. The project “will meet about 25 percent of the state’s electricity” needs, he added. Revolution Wind is also set to create 800 jobs in the state, said Mackay Miller ‘01, National Grid’s director of US Strategy. Officials hope the development will also reduce electric bills.
National Grid, while based in England, supplies gas and electricity to New York, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. The company has been working with offshore wind in the United Kingdom for over a decade, and officials are “quite keen to build up capabilities in the United States,” Miller said.
The Northeast is a particularly good location for offshore wind farms, as “the offshore wind is always blowing more fiercely and more steadily on this part of the country,” Miller said. This is particularly true in the winter, which will help “keep winter-time electric bills low,” he added. But much work remains to create the necessary infrastructure for the efficient production of renewable energy sources required to address climate change. While Europe has brought prices down by building an ecosystem of companies that can put together windfarms quickly and efficiently, the United States still lacks that, Miller said.
Approval for the contract will go through a period of testimony and a review of potential environmental and economic impacts, Ucci said. The 2014 R.I. state statute, the Affordable Clean Energy Security Act, requires that any clean energy contract be accepted by the Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission before they become effective, Ucci said. The Revolution Wind-National Grid currently awaits regulatory approval from the commission, Miller said.
The construction of Revolution Wind and its contract with National Grid aligns with Gov. Gina Raimondo’s renewable energy goals, which were set March 2017. These goals include a ten-fold increase in the state’s renewable energy, which will total 1,000 MW, by 2020.
While Revolution Wind will not be finalized in time to meet the 2020 goals, it will assist in movement toward the state’s longer term goals, such as reducing emissions 80 percent by 2050, Ucci said. Despite this, “based upon current analysis, the state is already on track to meet 2020 emissions reductions goal,” he added.
But as the contract moves forward in the approval process, some environmentalists see Revolution Wind as only one piece of a much larger puzzle.
“400 megawatts is not that much in the grand scheme of things,” said Nicole DiPaolo, a Sunrise RI hub member. She criticized the proposed construction of a power plant in Burrillville and the recent approval of a liquid natural gas facility in Providence, which would increase the state’s emissions on a level “far greater than what we would save with this 400 megawatt project,” she added.
Instead, Sunrise wants to “transform our energy sector so we’re not emitting carbon in our daily lives,” DiPaolo said.
Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled the National Grid’s director of US Strategy Mackay Miller's '01 name as McKay Miller. It also stated that Rhode Island’s longer-term goals include reducing emissions 85 percent by 2050. In fact, the state aims to reduce emissions 80 percent by 2050. Additionally, the article stated that Revolution Wind will provide 16,000 jobs. In fact, the total number of jobs in the clean energy sector in Rhode Island almost reached 16,000 by 2018, while Revolution Wind will be responsible for 800 new positions. Finally, due to an editing error, the article stated that “some environmentalists have expressed skepticism about Rhode Island’s interest in promoting clean energy.” It is more accurate to say that “some environmentalists see Revolution Wind as only one piece of a much larger puzzle.” The Herald regrets the errors.