PROVIDENCE – Three new wind turbines are set to rise over the city’s waterfront.
The turbines are set to go up in 2021 at the southern end of Fields Point, on land owned by the Port of Providence and Johnson & Wales University. When they’re completed, on a date expected to come around next fall, they will join another trio of turbines that were installed just to the north in 2012 at the wastewater treatment plant operated by the Narragansett Bay Commission.
Green Development, the only company actively developing land-based wind power in Rhode Island, announced Tuesday that it had secured all the necessary approvals for the turbines that will reach 325 feet high when their blades are at their highest points.
Site work is set to begin in the closing weeks of this year for the $22.5-million project.
“Every time we get a project approved Rhode Island becomes a little less dependent on the fossil fuel industry,” Mark DePasquale, founder of Green Development, said in a statement.
Apart from Orsted, the Danish offshore wind company with offices in Providence, Green Development may be the biggest renewable energy developer in Rhode Island. Once the new Providence turbines go up, the Cranston-based company will have installed a total of 43.5 megawatts of onshore wind power in Rhode Island.
In comparison, Orsted’s much-celebrated Block Island Wind Farm, the first – and so far – only offshore wind farm in the nation, has a nameplate capacity of 30 megawatts. (Orsted has agreements in place to develop more than 800 megawatts offshore and is planning many hundreds more.)
Green started with a single turbine in North Kingstown in 2012 and has followed with 18 more: one in place of a failed turbine at Portsmouth High School that attracted much negative attention; 10 in Coventry; and, most recently, seven in Johnston.
The turbines in Johnston, which were completed two years ago at a cost of $105 million, are by far the largest in Rhode Island. Each one has a capacity of three megawatts and reaches as high as 524 feet.
In contrast, the new turbines in Providence, which will be manufactured by German company VENSYS, won’t stand as high and will have half the capacity, at 1.5 megawatts each. That will make them equivalent in power-generating ability to the turbines already installed nearby in Providence and those in Coventry, North Kingstown and Portsmouth.
Trying to put larger turbines in Providence would have run up against siting concerns and issues over height with the Federal Aviation Administration, according to Green spokesman Bill Fischer.
The new project received approval last year from the FAA and from the Providence Planning and Zoning Boards this past summer. The final permit came through in November from the state Coastal Resources Management Council.
The turbines will sell power directly into the regional electric grid through the state’s Renewable Energy Growth Program, under which long-term power purchase contracts are awarded with National Grid, Rhode Island’s dominant utility. Green secured a 20-year agreement to sell the power for 19.34 cents a kilowatt hour.
The company is paying $54,000 a year to lease the land on which each turbine is sitting. Two are on land owned by Johnson & Wales and one is at ProvPort. Per state law, Green is also making tax payments of $5,000 per megawatt to Providence, for an annual total of $22,500.
Green is also active in the solar market, with hundreds of megawatts either developed or proposed, and it has attracted a reputation for aggressive tactics. It has filed lawsuits in Exeter and Coventry and been accused of razing woodlands to make room for ground-mounted solar panels without securing the necessary approvals. There have been complaints, too, by residents in Coventry and Johnston of shadow flicker, noise and negative visual impacts from Green’s wind turbines.
Green has also found itself in the midst of more than one Smith Hill controversy. In 2016, a budget provision designed to help the company’s Coventry project by shifting some interconnection costs to ratepayers was shelved after a Journal story.
In the 2018 General Assembly session, the company sought legislation that would have extended a key renewable-energy incentive to biomass – the burning of wood waste for power – to benefit a project in the works at the time in Johnston, but the measure was dropped in the face of opposition from environmental groups.
The new Providence proposal, however, has charted a smoother course through the approval process and was applauded by Green’s partners at Johnson & Wales and ProvPort and by city leaders.
“We are excited to see additional renewable energy projects being developed along our waterfront,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement. “Our Port of Providence is well-positioned to support offshore wind development and I can’t think of a better symbol of sustainable investments in our community than projects like these.”