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Rhode Island regulators review plan for connecting offshore wind farm to grid

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Offshore wind turbines

The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island was the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. Credit: Dennis Schroeder / U.S. Department of Energy

Written By: Lisa Prevost

Rhode Island regulators will hold a preliminary hearing Monday on an application from Revolution Wind to build the undersea and onshore infrastructure necessary to deliver power from its proposed 704-megawatt wind farm. 

The infrastructure application is coming under review by the state’s Energy Facility Siting Board even as the wind project, a joint venture between Ørsted North America and Eversource, awaits federal approvals. 

“The project cannot proceed without receiving all required permits at the state and federal level, regardless of which comes first,” said Meaghan Wims, a spokesperson for Revolution Wind. “Once permits are in hand, construction work would begin as early as 2023, with the project potentially in operation by as early as 2024.”

With up to 100 turbines, Revolution Wind will be located in federal waters about 15 miles southeast of the Rhode Island coast. Ørsted and Eversource are also partners in South Fork Wind and Sunrise Wind, both proposed for waters off of Long Island in New York. And Ørsted operates the first U.S. offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt, five-turbine project off Rhode Island. 

The Port of Davisville, on Narragansett Bay in North Kingstown, is the proposed receiving point for power from Revolution Wind. The developer has power purchase agreements with both Rhode Island (400 MW) and Connecticut (304 MW). 

The application calls for approval of 23 miles of two subsea cables in Rhode Island waters, and one mile of onshore transmission cables. The offshore cables will be buried at a depth of four to six feet below seabed, according to the application. 

The cable installation is expected to have “short-term, localized impacts” on access to fishing grounds, according to an environmental report submitted with the application. Those impacts will be addressed through a separate permitting process before the state Coastal Resources Management Council, it said.

The cables will be routed through the West Passage of Narragansett Bay and connect to shore at National Grid’s Davisville Substation, within the Quonset Business Park, a thriving office and industrial center with more than 200 businesses. Revolution Wind proposes to expand the existing substation, build a new one alongside it, and reconfigure about 1,340 feet of overhead transmission lines. 

According to Steven King, managing director of the Quonset Development Corporation, which manages the park, Revolution Wind has negotiated a lease option agreement for a parcel of land for the new substation and an easement agreement to bring the cable onto the shore.

Revolution Wind declined to disclose the cost of the interconnection project. King said he didn’t know the exact figure, but estimated that it’s “very substantial,” as the developer is paying for the capital cost of the substation installation and market rate for the site. 

Earlier this month, Rhode Island voters approved a bond referendum that includes $20 million for improvements to the Port of Davisville, one of the country’s largest auto import centers. The money will be used for improvements to Pier 1, an 80-year-old facility, King said. A second pier is already in the midst of substantial improvements. 

“The improved port facilities will be used by the current auto import business, as well as any new businesses related to offshore wind,” King said. “We need to have good quality facilities to support all commerce.”

He said the development corporation is working on some additional new construction related to offshore wind, but nondisclosure agreements prevent them from releasing details about those projects for now. 

North Kingstown Town Manager A. Ralph Mollis said Revolution Wind will need to access town street infrastructure for the underground cables, something the town will work with them on. But otherwise, he said, the town’s role in the project is very limited.

So far, Mollis said he hasn’t heard from any residents with concerns about the project. The opposite is true for the South Fork project, which is generating fury among wealthy residents of the hamlet of Wainscott, Long Island, because of plans to bring an underground cable onshore beneath its beach.

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