Mass., Rhode Island tap offshore wind projects totaling 1,200 MW

Investor-owned utilities in Massachusetts have selected Vineyard Wind to move forward to contract negotiations for the procurement of 800 megawatts of offshore wind energy.

Vineyard Wind was selected by electric distribution companies in Massachusetts -- Fitchburg Gas & Electric Light Company, Massachusetts Electric Company, Nantucket Electric Company, NSTAR Electric Company and Western Massachusetts Electric Company -- to move forward to contract negotiations as part of a previously authorized offshore wind energy procurement, a May 23 news release posted on the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources’ website said.

The ultimate procurement of 800 MW will represent the largest single procurement of offshore wind by any state in the nation, the news release said.

The Vineyard Wind bid was selected for contract negotiation based on criteria established under a Request for Proposals (RFP) previously subject to public comment, and reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities.

Criteria used in the evaluation of the bids included an economic evaluation of the benefits for ratepayers, the project’s ability to foster employment and economic development in the Commonwealth, and the project’s environmental impacts and the extent to which a project demonstrates that it avoids or mitigates impacts to natural resources and tourism.

Per statute, a competitive solicitation was announced through issuance of the RFP on June 29, 2017 for 400 MW to 800 MW per year, which represents approximately 2.7-3% and 5.5-6% of Massachusetts’s total annual electric load.

The final acceptance of the bid and award of contract is conditional upon successful contract negotiations between the parties and the regulatory approval at the Massachusetts DPU. At the time of contract filing with the DPU, a public report will be provided by the soliciting parties that details the evaluation process. 

Separately, an independent evaluator will prepare and submit a detailed public report on the evaluation process and outcome.

If the bid selected to advance to contract negotiation at this stage does not successfully negotiate contracts, it may result in other bid(s) being selected to advance to contract negotiations.  Final project selection as a result of successful contract negotiation will be made public following submittal for regulatory approval.

In August 2016, Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker signed into law legislation requiring utilities to competitively solicit and contract for approximately 1,600 MW of offshore wind and approximately 1,200 MW of clean energy.

Rhode Island

Meanwhile, in related news, Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo on May 23 said that the state has selected Deepwater Wind, a Rhode Island-based clean energy developer, to construct a new, 400-MW offshore wind farm.

The Revolution Wind project “was selected through a competitive offshore wind procurement process in collaboration with Massachusetts,” the Rhode Island governor’s office noted in a news release.

While the Revolution Wind project was selected through Rhode Island's participation in the clean energy procurement process conducted by Massachusetts, Rhode Island state agencies, including the Office of Energy Resources and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers, independently evaluated the proposals.

Deepwater Wind will now enter negotiations with National Grid, which will submit a proposed contract to the Public Utilities Commission for regulatory review. The project will also be subject to a federal approval process before it proceeds.

In March 2017, Raimondo set a goal for Rhode Island to increase its clean energy resources portfolio ten-fold by 2020 to reach a total of 1,000 MW.

The first U.S. offshore wind farm, off the southern coast of Block Island, Rhode Island, began operating in December 2016 and has a capacity of 30 MW.