Rhode Island Revises Terms as It Issues Its Largest Wind Power Solicitation

offshore wind turbines
Rhode Island is home to the Block Island Wind Farm, the first in the U.S. (Orsted file photo)

Published Oct 16, 2023 6:38 PM by The Maritime Executive

Rhode Island is moving forward with the state’s largest renewable energy solicitation after announcing it would form a three-state partnership with Connecticut and Massachusetts to review and coordinate a regional approach to offshore renewable energy. At the same time, Rhode Island is also providing additional latitude to developers to provide possible avenues to address the emerging financial challenges in the development of offshore wind energy resources.

The neighboring states each have recently had major offshore projects fall apart due to inflation pressures as well as rising costs due to supply chain problems and concerns over tax credits and incentive programs. Massachusetts agreed to let two projects pay fines to walk away from existing power purchase agreements and recently Connecticut also established a fine for a developer to cancel its power agreement. Last year, Rhode Island decided not to proceed with a proposed project saying that it was concerned over the affordability of the power coming from the offshore wind farm, while last week New York State turned down applications from developers that were seeking to increase the cost of power also citing inflation and rising costs to develop the projects.

Rhode Island’s state power company, Rhode Island Energy on Friday issued its anticipated request for proposals from offshore energy developers. The company is seeking to secure an additional 1.2 GW of offshore power to help address the state’s energy needs. The window to submit proposals runs through January 31, 2024, with the company saying that any winning bids will be announced in the summer of 2024.

"We know there's a sense of urgency to get more renewables online and we believe this next RFP will give developers a new, unique opportunity to think creatively about how they can meet the state's clean energy and economic development goals,” said Dave Bonenberger, president of Rhode Island Energy. He believes the structure created in the RFP will balance developers’ approach with the state’s need for affordable energy.

The RFP provides the opportunity for developers to make proposals for all or a portion of the 1.2 GW. The state is still seeking long-term power purchase agreements but it will consider inflation indexing while also citing the renewable energy certificates made available under state law. In addition, the three states said they would jointly review proposals providing developers the opportunity to potentially propose larger or multi-state projects.

"With a larger capacity available, a streamlined application process, additional flexibility on contract durations, and the potential for multi-state coordination, we believe this solicitation could provide greater economies of scale for developers," said Bonenberger.

Rhode Island notes that it is home to the nation's first commercial offshore wind farm located near Block Island. Transmission upgrades are also already underway for a second offshore wind project, known as Revolution Wind, which will bring more than 700 MW of energy to Connecticut and Rhode Island. The state’s Coastal Resources Management Council also recently gave its approval to Avangrid’s proposed New England Wind project (formerly known as Vineyard Wind South). The project, which calls for 84 wind turbines 14 miles from Martha’s Vineyard, would provide 804 MW of energy. It is still in the review process with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).

It is unclear how the developers will respond to Rhode Island’s revised structure for proposals. The major companies have been scrambling to rework the finances on proposed projects while threatening to walk away from the American market due to what they perceive to be rigid structure that are not responding to market pressures. Recently, national lease auctions in both the UK and the U.S. received disappointing responses from the developers while the authorities have promised to revise the structures to respond to industry concerns.