RI - Coastal Agency's Vote Moves Revolution Wind Project One Step Closer
The Revolution Wind project moved a step closer to putting steel into the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf when the Coastal Resources Management Council voted Tuesday night to declare to the federal government that the offshore wind project is consistent with the state’s coastal management policies.
The next big permission for the project would come from the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which has final oversight over the project. That permission, preceded by a final environmental impact statement for the project, is expected to be granted this summer.
The 4-1 council vote, which opens an essential gate in the approvals process, came at the end of about five hours of testimony from the public in a hearing that itself was continued from the CRMC meeting of two weeks ago. Many commercial and recreational fishermen, as well as residents of coastal towns, spoke eloquently against the project, declaring it a threat to important fishing grounds and to the ocean environment.
Many others, including members of Climate Action Rhode Island, spoke in favor of Revolution Wind, declaring that harnessing the power of high winds over the Atlantic would move Rhode Island closer to its legislated mandates to increase the state’s proportion of electricity from renewable sources.
Under Rhode Island’s 2021 Act on Climate, Rhode Island must achieve net-zero emissions economy-wide by 2050. And in 2022, the General Assembly revised the state renewable energy standard, requiring that 100% of Rhode Island’s electricity be offset by renewable production by 2033.
Before the final vote, the council added a condition that would require Ørsted, developer of the project, to move wind turbines and some electric cables off Coxes Ledge, a rich fishing ground and spawning area for cod and an area of particular concern to fishermen.
Leaders at Pacific Offshore Wind Summit urge California to move with speed & scale to deploy nation-leading 25 GW of floating offshore wind, meet climate, clean-energy, grid-reliability goals
Offshore Wind California, May 10, 2023, 11:00 ET
Representatives of Ørsted conferred for several minutes and agreed to the condition, provided that the new condition did not include relocating inter-array cables, which link the turbines to each other.
The last-minute condition requiring removal of turbines and export cables from Coxes Ledge allowed some wiggle room for the developer with the closing phrase “unless Revolution Wind denotes that micrositing [turbines] outside of Coxes Ledge precludes its ability to meet its power purchase agreement.”
In previous negotiations, Ørsted reduced the number of planned wind turbines from 100 to 65 and agreed to remove several planned turbine sites from Coxes Ledge, particularly in locations of complex seafloor.
The Revolution Wind project, in the planning for years, would place 65 turbines across 84,000 acres about 15 miles southwest of Point Judith. It is expected to deliver 704 megawatts (MW) of power, including 400 MW delivered to Rhode Island and 304 MW to Connecticut. The project would have two offshore substations. Export cables on the seafloor would bring power to the land-based grid at Quonset Point.
The final environmental impact statement for the project is expected to be published in June. Construction work would begin in 2024, starting with seabed preparation in January, foundation and turbine placement in May, and cable installation in July.
Opposition from commercial and recreational fishermen, who fear the loss of valuable fishing grounds, and some residents of coastal towns, particularly Little Compton, has been fierce throughout the process. Opponents have raised many concerns, including damage to fish, plankton, and seafloor ecosystems; threats by turbines and work boats to migrating marine mammals; disruption to the effectiveness of radar; questions about how decommissioning will be done and funded; disruption to fishery survey activities by the National Marine Fisheries Service; and use of U.S. infrastructure subsidies to pay for work by foreign-based companies.