Rhode Island:
The Winds of Change

An Exclusive Look at How One State is Transforming Offshore Wind in the US

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They say that big things come in small packages. And nothing could be truer when it comes to the pioneering nations and states of offshore wind. Denmark led the way, in 1991, with Vindeby and set Europe on a path to becoming the titan of offshore wind that it is today.

This bodes well for Rhode Island, by far the smallest state in North America but very much the leading voice when it comes to championing efforts to bring meaningful progress to the US Offshore Wind market.

Most notably, Rhode Island currently operates the first (and only) offshore wind farm in the country, the Block Island Wind Farm. That alone is an achievement, but is not the only industry first that the state can claim to in the US: It was the first state to create a marine spatial management plan, which proved highly beneficial for expediting the permitting for the wind farm; it was the first state to develop a high school certificate program in offshore wind; it was the first state to use its ports to stage the logistical phases of offshore wind farm construction; and it was the first state to open, in partnership with Ørsted, a dedicated innovation hub for breakthrough offshore wind technologies. Even in the broader context of renewable energy, Rhode Island is one of the most energy-efficient states in the US and has set its sights on moving towards a power grid fueled entirely on renewable energy. Make no mistake about it, Rhode Island is a force to be reckoned with.

So, as Offshore Source began its research into the current prospects for US offshore wind in 2020, it soon became apparent that all roads lead to Rhode Island. And not just because of the Block Island Wind Farm, or the state’s +25GW wind potential for that matter. Nor is it on account of the many lessons learned along the way. All important, granted, but the real story of Rhode Island’s rise to prominence in offshore wind is that of the many people and organizations harnessing the winds of change.

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In this Offshore Source WebExclusive, we delve into Rhode Island’s unique offshore wind experience, through the stories, insights, and perspectives of the men and women at the forefront of US offshore wind development. Their views on everything from policy to commercialization, from science to workforce development and from infrastructure to impact, are critical to the future of offshore renewable energy. 

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Helping companies land and expand in Rhode Island,
we’re the state’s economic development agency.

The Voices of Change

Exclusive Insights from Offshore Wind Experts
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Jeff Tingley

A true authority on offshore wind, Jeff highlights the commercial impact on the state of Rhode Island and some supply chain and workforce development challenges.
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Nicholas Ucci

Nick provides in-depth analysis on the state’s energy policy and the place offshore wind has within the renewable energy portfolio.
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Matt Morrissey

Matt brings a perspective on the first US offshore wind farm and the newly-opened Ørsted Innovation Hub in Providence. His experience regarding offshore wind is unparalleled.
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Ken Bowes

Eversource is the leading transmission provider in New England and Ken is at the center of the company’s offshore wind activities.
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Jennifer McCann

Jennifer shares exclusive insights on using science to develop regulatory tools for offshore wind with specific reference to a new cable permitting project in Narragansett Bay.
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Chris Waterson

Chris reflects on the early days of the Block Island Wind Farm construction, and what the future holds for port infrastructure.
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Kristin Urbach & Dr. James Halley

Kristin and James discuss efforts to develop offshore wind educational programs in Rhode Island designed to develop future professionals.
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Jessica Willi

Prior to the wind farm, New Shoreham was unconnected to the shore in terms of energy and barely connected in terms of telecom. She discusses how the community has been impacted.

This is a brand-new industry and it's being born right here in the state of Rhode Island.

Gov. Gina Raimondo

A Closing Word From Liz Burdock

Last, but not least, there was only one person we felt should serve as a final commentary to this feature. Our thanks go to Liz Burdock, the CEO & President of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to building the US offshore wind supply chain. The Network’s flagship event, the IPF conference, was scheduled to be held in Rhode Island this year, but had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 crisis. Liz, however, agreed to share her thoughts about Rhode Island’s impact on the US offshore wind industry.
Rhode Island is small in size, but a proven big a leader on offshore wind. For more than a decade, offshore wind struggled in the U.S., stopping and starting until in 2016 Rhode Island turned on the power of our nation’s first offshore wind project. We, as a nation, needed that proof point – an offshore wind project we can literally point to and say to the world “yes, we can do this in America.” The industry has been powering forward at what seems like light speed ever since.

The commitment to offshore wind did not end when electricity started generating at the Block Island Wind Farm. Rhode Island has continued to create a portfolio of physical and intellectual assets that makes offshore wind a flagship industry standing alongside Rhode Island’s marine and other industries. It has weaved together a set government services across multiple State agencies, creating a job training and business expansion, diversification and attraction program that makes the State an extremely attractive locality to grow or establish an offshore wind business.
Inherently understanding that the State is central to the success of the New England region, Rhode Island and Governor Raimondo continuously break down barriers and work across geographical boundaries. In 2017, the State worked with its neighbor Massachusetts on the Nation’s first large scale offshore wind procurement. This created an economy of scale that drove down costs and enhanced economic development opportunities for both States. Today, the State continues to work on regional issues that are extremely important to the offshore wind industry
Liz Burdock
Liz BurdockCEO & President
I bring passion, commitment and a wealth of knowledge to the Nation's offshore wind effort. I am working to create a new industry that will employ all residents: from those with low skills to those with advanced degrees.

A Special Note on COVID-19

This feature was researched and written at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US. This obviously impacted our ability to speak with a number of leading state officials who were tasked with the much more important duty of keeping the people of Rhode Island safe, yet the state provided us with every facility they could to make this feature possible. In the interviews featured, you will see people like Matt Morrissey praise the state leadership for its efforts; referring to the leadership as a “high-octane team” and we certainly saw that in their help with this feature. And we should note this begins at the top, with Governor Gina Raimondo, who clearly is making Rhode Island a leader in energy efficiency, renewable energy and offshore wind.

About Rhode Island Commerce

We’re on a mission to help you achieve yours

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation works with public, private and nonprofit partners to create the conditions for businesses in all sectors to thrive and to improve the quality of life for our citizens by promoting the state’s long-term economic health and prosperity. We offer business assistance, access to funding and red tape reduction for companies of all sizes.

As a quasi-public agency, we are the official full-service, economic development organization for the state of Rhode Island. We serve as a government and community resource to help businesses expand in, and relocate to, Rhode Island.

We assist companies with:

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Commercial real estate and property searches

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Business financing, renewable energy grants, and science and technology grants

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Tax credits and other incentives

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Workforce training and talent development

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Rhode Island’s appeal as a tourist destination is a highly valuable asset for the overall economy. Our Tourism division works in partnership with local convention and visitors bureaus, chambers of commerce, and private travel-related organizations to promote economic opportunity and prosperity for Rhode Island through both domestic and international tourism.

Find out more: https://commerceri.com/