WARWICK – Rhode Island’s Public Utilities Commission is set to open a public hearing Tuesday night on a contract with the developer of a proposed offshore wind-energy turbine farm that company and state officials say would supply about a quarter of the state’s electricity needs at reduced prices.
National Grid Rhode Island, the state’s main electricity distributor, is seeking the commission’s approval of its contract with Orsted US Offshore Wind to supply 400 megawatts of electricity from its Revolution Wind project in federal waters off the Rhode Island coast.
Orsted US, a Boston and Providence-based subsidiary of European offshore wind energy giant Orsted, is developing Revolution Wind in partnership with Boston-based Eversource Energy.
If approved, the contract would make the Ocean State an early major player in the offshore wind energy industry, which is expected to spread along the Atlantic coast in coming years.
At an estimated cost of about $1 billion, the 400 megawatts from Revolution Wind would produce enough electricity to power 270,000 homes or about 25 percent of Rhode Island’s total electricity load, while saving millions of dollars for Rhode Island ratepayers over 20 years or more, according to Orsted US.
The wind farm would be in federal waters at least 15 miles south of Rhode Island’s coast. The contract stems from an earlier request for proposals from Gov. Gina M. Raimondo’s administration to boost Rhode Island’s so-called clean energy output.
The commission “will conduct a full and transparent review of the proposed contract and its total energy, economic, and environmental benefits and costs to Rhode Island consumers,” Raimondo’s office said in a statement.
Tuesday’s public hearing is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. at the commission’s offices at 89 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick.
The three-member commission – Chairwoman Margaret E. Curran and commissioners Marion S. Gold and Abigail Anthony – is scheduled to close the public comment period Friday.
Advisory opinions are also due Friday from the state Department of Energy Resources, the state Department of Environmental Management, and R.I. Commerce Corp., the state’s economic development agency.
Tuesday night’s hearing is among the first steps in the commission’s review process. The commission is slated to issue a decision at a May 31 open meeting, followed by a June 7 deadline for filing a written order.
If approved, local construction work on Revolution Wind could begin as early as 2020, with the project potentially in operation by 2023.
In addition to the power supply to Rhode Island, the project is planned to generate about 300 megawatts of electricity for Connecticut, which would be a separate review process.
Rhode Island already has the nation’s first offshore wind farm, a comparatively small five-turbine operation near Block Island. It only supplies power to the island. It was developed by Deepwater Wind, which was acquired last year by Orsted.
In comparison, the Revolution Wind project would have about 85 turbines, including 50 to supply power to Rhode Island and 35 to supply Connecticut, the company said.
“The contract for Revolution Wind represents the next important opportunity to bring the benefits of affordable clean energy and the emerging offshore wind industry to Rhode Island at scale,” the Department of Energy Resources said in a statement.
Ahead of the meeting, public comments were submitted to the project docket with the PUC, largely supporting the project.
The project received support from the Rhode Island Building Trades, The Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, The Acadia Center, Specialty Dining Services Inc. and F/V Lindsey E. LLC, Block Island.
Public comments submitted ahead of the meeting also included comments against the project from Middletown resident William F. Horan.