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Blowing it out of the water: Offshore wind grows in the Ocean State

Statewide efforts promoting offshore wind development began in 2007

“Wind power holds exciting potential for (Rhode Island’s) energy needs,” said former Gov. Donald Carcieri ’65 in his 2007 State of the State address.

The offshore wind industry has grown considerably in the state of Rhode Island since 2007, with several projects happening or slated to happen statewide. The Herald recently spoke with stakeholders in the industry to construct a comprehensive overview of the Ocean State’s offshore wind ventures. 

2007 marked the beginning of statewide efforts toward offshore wind development — a year when state officials and energy developers began identifying the industry as the “largest and strongest resource that we could potentially pursue,” said Chris Kearns, acting energy commissioner at the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources.

The waters off the coast of R.I. are considered the “Saudi Arabia of wind,” wrote Laura Dwyer, information coordinator for Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management in an email to The Herald, “which makes the area favorable for offshore wind farm development.”


Between 2008 and 2010, the University of Rhode Island and the Coastal Resources Management Council created the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, which aimed to “foster a properly functioning ecosystem that is both ecologically sound and economically beneficial.” A significant portion of the plan focused on renewable energy in the form of offshore wind.

In 2013, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held the first federal offshore wind auction for the leasing of federal and state waters around Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Deepwater Wind — now a subsidiary of Ørsted — was selected to lease the area.

Deepwater Wind began construction on this leased area in July 2015. The resulting Block Island Wind Farm went online the next year, the first offshore wind farm in the United States.

In 2017, R.I. pursued a second offshore wind project, Revolution Wind, through a state-sponsored request for proposal from Massachusetts. South Fork Wind, another Ørsted project, completed its first turbines in November 2023 but will deliver all of its power to New York. 

Revolution Wind, a 704-megawatt wind project developed by Ørsted and Eversource, was approved for power purchase in early 2019 and is estimated to send 400 megawatts of power to Rhode Island. Construction is scheduled to begin this spring, with operation slated for 2025.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts now host a variety of current and developing offshore wind projects, including Vineyard Wind, the Block Island Wind Farm, South Coast Wind, Revolution Wind and Beacon Wind.

South Coast Wind, a joint development proposed by Shell and Ocean Winds, is a $5 billion, 2,400 megawatt wind farm. The farm will be located 20 miles south of Nantucket and 30 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard. Portions of the project will run through Portsmouth following previous debates on the site.

After a heated four-hour public hearing in January, the Portsmouth Town Council approved a Host Community Agreement that allows part of the South Coast Wind project to be dug through the town. The council would receive $23 million “for impacts and potential disruptions during construction,” according to the agreement.

In June 2023, the Energy Facility Siting Board voted to pause all construction on the South Coast Wind project. According to South Coast, inflation increased construction costs to the point that agreements made in previous contracts would not provide a sufficient return on investment. South Coast Wind plans to rebid these contracts, but construction remains paused.

Gov. Dan McKee’s 2025 “Team Rhode Island” Budget allocated $50 million to the “Green Economy,” according to a press release. $20 million of this budget is slated to make improvements to the Port of Davisville Infrastructure at Quonset which will allow the port to “accommodate offshore wind project components.”


Improvements on earlier efforts have allowed additional progress in Ørsted and Eversource’s Revolution Wind project. A joint venture between Ørsted and Eversource, Revolution Wind is the state’s next big wind project. The wind farm will be located 15 miles south of the Rhode Island coast and become fully operational by 2025, according to their website.

Ørsted is “focusing its efforts in supporting the Northeast’s ambitious climate targets,” Meaghan Wims, a spokesperson for Revolution Wind, wrote in an email to The Herald, noting how “exciting” these climate targets are.

Ørsted and Eversource launched construction for their Revolution Wind project on May 1, 2023. The project aims to bring enough energy to power 350,000 homes.

“This is when the ‘excitement’ comes,” Kearns said, “once we start to see the projects under construction.”

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According to Wims, Rhode Islanders have been “overwhelmingly supportive of offshore wind,” adding that “skeptics need only look at the substantial environmental and economic impacts of Rhode Island's existing offshore wind projects” to understand the positive impacts of these ventures.

Shaye Rooney, co-executive director of the Commercial Fisheries Center, added that — along with energy and economic benefits — there are “certain opportunities that fishermen can take advantage of to benefit directly from this work,” including Vineyard Wind’s free safety training and captain's courses.

But there are “safety concerns, environmental concerns (and) economic concerns,” about the project in the fishing industry, Rooney said, adding that reactions from the fishing industry are “definitely more negative.”

She hopes working with offshore wind companies will allow them to “improve their process, their engagement and communications,” Rooney said.  She added that collaboration is “only going to help benefit the industry in the long term.”

These projects create hundreds of direct construction jobs and indirect supply chain jobs, Wims said. Developers hope these opportunities will spur new economic activity at Rhode Island's ports.

But “one of the challenges with offshore wind is integrating it in a way that is compatible with other industries that utilize those waters,” Kearns said.

Concerns about the Revolution Wind project include navigational hazards and threats to marine ecosystems, The Herald previously reported. Some have taken to legal means in order to stop offshore wind projects from moving forward.

“The pace should be a little bit slower before we build out all of these consecutive projects in this small area,” Rooney said, noting that the ocean ecosystem is a “very delicate thing.” For Rooney, R.I.’s priority needs to be on research “before we build everything out and then deal with the consequences.”

After everything the state has done to become a leader in this offshore wind “game,” R.I. is “poised to continue leading the clean energy revolution,” Wims added.

Maya Kelly

Maya Kelly is a Metro senior staff writer who covers health and environment. When she's not at The Herald, you can find her hanging from an aerial silk, bullet journaling, or stress-baking.

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