Rhode Island Picks Deepwater Wind to Build Offshore Farm

As Republicans in Congress clamor for offshore drilling, Rhode Island’s Republican governor, Don Carcieri, has been looking to tap into offshore wind. The state will reportedly announce today that it’s selected Deepwater Wind for an offshore wind energy project that could cost up to $2 billion. The state hopes the massive project will be able to produce 15 percent of the state’s electricity from 100 turbines located 15-20 miles offshore.

But the project is anything but a sure thing. Deepwater Wind will still have to jump through a number of regulatory hoops, not to mention raise capital and find a power purchaser. The firm was able to beat out competing wind developers by including in their proposal plans for a new manufacturing headquarters in the state, which could employ as many as 800 people. New Jersey-based Deepwater Wind is backed by First Wind, DE Shaw & Co. and Ospraie Management.

A number of offshore wind projects in the northeast are in various stages of development, but no turbines have been put in the water yet. The Minerals Management Service is expected to release a final environmental analysis of the Cape Wind project by the end of the year, which has met heavy resistance. Farther south, the Long Island Power Authority announced this week that it is looking to build a wind farm 10 miles off the coast of Queens in conjunction with local utility Con Edison. Maybe Mayor Bloomberg will get his wind-powered Statue of Liberty after all.

The development process for these projects can easily stretch to a decade. In Delaware, the country’s most advanced offshore wind project is progressing slowly. Bluewater Wind has gotten as far as signing a power purchase agreement for 200 megawatts of offshore wind power with Delaware utility Delmarva Power. The project is scheduled to start delivering power in 2012.

Critics claim offshore wind is currently just too expensive, especially with so many sites on land left to be developed. For while the middle of the country can serve as a great wind energy corridor, the vast majority of the energy-consuming population is crowded along the nation’s coasts, where strong, consistent winds blow out onto the open ocean.

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