Rhode Island progresses toward 400 MW offshore

The state of Rhode Island has signed a legally binding joint development agreement with New Jersey-based Deepwater Wind for an offshore wind power development. The first phase could add 20 MW in state waters near Quonset Point as soon as 2011. A second 400 MW phase is planned. Although lacking a power purchase agreement, turbines, transmission or a specific location, both sides insist that once permitting is finalised, these decisions can be made quickly. The agreement will involve a process called a Special Area Management Plan (SAMP), set out by the federal Coastal Zone Management Act to expedite permitting, says Andrew Dzykewicz of the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources. Deepwater is responsible for realising the SAMP, which will cost several million dollars, according to Chris Wissemann of Deepwater. Much of the electricity will go to nearby Block Island, where mid-last year residents paid $0.65/kWh. The project also calls for a factory to manufacture jacket towers that Wissemann compares to four-legged barstools that allow the turbines to be planted in much deeper water than ordinary towers. State and company officials estimate the plant would employ 800 people with annual wages totalling $60 million. Deepwater, formerly known as Winergy, counts Massachusetts developer First Wind Energy among its investors.