As the United States enters a new era of offshore renewable energy innovation, a project in Rhode Island serves as a valuable model of ocean planning in action. Faced with increased demands on its ocean space and with an ambitious renewable energy goal that prioritizes offshore wind, Rhode Island took the lead in an Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP). Using the best-available science and a robust stakeholder engagement process, the plan helped to identify and resolve potential areas of conflicts. The goal was to keep the ocean working by promoting a balanced and comprehensive approach to protection and development.
Deepwater Wind, LLC came to the state of Rhode Island with an ambitious proposal—Block Island Wind Farm – a 5 turbine, 30MW offshore wind farm that would reduce the island’s electric rates by an estimated 40 percent and diversify power supply. It would boost employment and the local economy with 200 workers during project construction, and dozens more in long-term maintenance and operations.
Rhode Island invited Deepwater Wind to participate in the open and transparent planning process which was backed with solid science, critical stakeholder input and productive public forums. Data collected through the Ocean SAMP not only identified priority wind energy areas but also provided information on aspects like key fishing grounds, marine mammal migration routes and recreational activities.
Empowered with this information, Deepwater Wind engaged in open dialogue with stakeholders and decision-makers. Through technical and citizen advisory committees, the company was able to ensure their project would complement multiple competing ocean uses by shifting foundation placement based on feedback from the fishing community and altering construction schedules to avoid critical whale migration periods. It brought everyone together to tackle concerns and ultimately identify the best area for offshore wind development.
- In their own words: Bill McElroy (Rhode Island lobsterman) & Jeff Grybowski (Deepwater Wind) talk about how ocean planning helped them resolve their differences.
- In the news: Providence Journal on Block Island Wind (July 2015).
In July 2015 construction began on the Block Island Wind Farm, going from concept to construction in record time. Ocean planning was the key to helping the state of Rhode Island gain the distinction of becoming the first state in the country to put “steel in the water” for offshore wind. Independent analysts predict that the project will generate over $100 million in economic activity for Rhode Island—keeping our ocean, the economy and local communities healthy and thriving.
As the United States enters a new era of offshore wind, Deepwater Wind’s experience in Rhode Island serves as a model for how this new industry can use leverage ocean planning to facilitate smart siting and development choices, and to find collaborative cooperative solutions to difficult management problems that will be essential to making offshore renewable energy projects a reality.