Revolution Wind offshore wind farm project hits major milestone off RI coast. What to know.

PROVIDENCE – The first major offshore wind farm that will supply power to Rhode Island has reached an important milestone with the successful installation of a foundation for one of its 65 enormous turbines.

The steel-in-the-water moment for Revolution Wind, a 704-megawatt project being developed by Danish offshore wind giant Ørsted and New England utility Eversource, came on Friday when a crane vessel finished hammering the first monopile foundation into the ocean floor about 17 miles southeast of Point Judith.

The first monopile foundation has been successfully installed for Revolution Wind, a 704-megawatt offshore wind farm that will send power to Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The first monopile foundation has been successfully installed for Revolution Wind, a 704-megawatt offshore wind farm that will send power to Rhode Island and Connecticut.

The installation signals a big step forward for the project that will supply 400 megawatts of electric capacity to Rhode Island and the remaining 304 megawatts to Connecticut

That's enough total energy to power 350,000 homes across the two states.

"Rhode Island is all in on building a climate-resilient future, and the progress happening at our first utility-scale offshore wind farm is exciting and encouraging," Governor Dan McKee said in a statement.

Rhode Island workers helping to build the wind farm

While the monopiles for the wind farm were built in Germany, accessory platforms and other key pieces were fabricated in Rhode Island, and some 50 of the union construction workers who are part of the offshore installation workforce are Rhode Islanders.

Paul Murphy, a senior director with Ørsted, said the reliance on local labor represents a fulfillment of a promise made when a five-turbine array near Block Island was proposed 16 years ago to demonstrate the viability of offshore wind in America.

Back then, supporters of the project said that by taking on the risks of developing the first offshore wind farm in the nation, Rhode Island would be rewarded with jobs and other economic benefits.

A few years after the Block Island Wind Farm was completed in 2016, Ørsted built an assembly center in the Port of Providence, where 120 workers have been making parts for the company’s offshore wind projects, including Revolution Wind.

“I’m really proud of this moment,” Murphy said. “These are components being built by Rhode Islanders and installed by Rhode Islanders.”

Offshore wind is seen as crucial to Rhode Island's climate goals

The Revolution project is critical to Rhode Island’s climate policy. In order to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, as state law requires, Rhode Island must develop alternatives to fossil fuel-burning power plants.

While Rhode Island has quadrupled its solar capacity in recent years, developing offshore wind is seen by policymakers as crucial because the state is densely populated and has only so much land area.

And even as Rhode Island gets closer to its goal of getting – or at least offsetting – 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2033, it has to look to bring even more supplies on line as transportation and heating systems are electrified.

Rhode Island is looking for up to 1,200 megawatts of more offshore wind power under a procurement process being coordinated with Massachusetts and Connecticut. Four companies, including Ørsted, have submitted bids to the regional solicitation.

Revolution Wind is one of several offshore wind farms being developed off Rhode Island and Massachusetts

The Revolution project is the third utility-scale offshore wind farm to enter development off southern New England.

Last year, Ørsted and Eversource built the 132-megawatt South Fork Wind Farm in the waters in Rhode Island Sound near the Revolution site. South Fork started supplying electricity to Long Island earlier this year.

Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt project south of Nantucket, installed some of its turbines last year when it also started sending a portion of its power to Massachusetts. The project is being completed this summer.

While the McKee administration, Rhode Island state legislators and environmental groups support the development of offshore wind, some critics allege that piledriving and surveying activities are harming whales and other marine mammals.

Scientists say there is no evidence of a connection between the industry and whale mortality. Brown University researchers have found links between some of the most active anti-wind groups and fossil fuel interests.

David Ortiz, head of government affairs for Ørsted, said that his company has posted protected species observers around the Revolution project site and taken other precautions to reduce impacts on marine animals.

“The data shows that the greatest threats to whales are vessel strikes and fishing gear entanglements, not offshore wind,” he said.

Project is scheduled to start delivering power next year

It’s unclear when the next monopile for Revolution Wind will be installed. Construction crews need 10 to 12 hours of calm seas to do the work, and a front of bad weather was expected to roll in this week.

Unlike with the Block Island or South Fork projects, the developers will be working on multiple parts of Revolution Wind, and different stages of work, at the same time throughout the summer. So the project’s 11-megawatt turbines may be going up in one area while new foundations are being sunk in another.

Murphy said the goal is to get the “vast majority” of the monopiles in the sea bottom this year. Construction would pick up again next year when the remaining foundations and turbines would be installed.

The onshore substation for the wind farm, which is being built in the Quonset Business Park in North Kingstown, won’t be completed until next year.

Sometime afterward, if all goes according to plan, the wind farm would start delivering power to Rhode Island.

This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Revolution Wind project off RI coast hits major milestone