An Interview with Matt Morrissey

Head of Northeast Markets, Ørsted

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Ørsted entered the US offshore wind market in 2018 with the acquisition of Deepwater Wind, the builder of the Block Island Wind Farm, the first and still only offshore wind farm in the country. Ørsted now has a large portfolio of offshore wind projects that it is developing all along the East Coast. Matt Morrissey is Head of Northeast Markets for Ørsted, and was previously part of the Deepwater Wind management team.
The Block Island Wind Farm was the project that started the U.S. offshore wind industry. Why did that project work when others did not and what significance did it have to the growth of the industry?

The Block Island Wind Farm probably could not have happened in another state at that time.  Rhode Island offers some terrific advantages among the many states that support offshore wind and there are certain advantages to being small and nimble.  Rhode Island has a high-octane team, from Governor Gina Raimondo to Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor to Acting Energy Commissioner Nick Ucci and so many others.  This kind of development doesn’t happen by accident. This is something that people work hard to make happen. 

As a result of the entrepreneurial spirit of folks in many different areas – energy policy development, permitting, solicitation, etc. -- the state stepped forward and, in a very nuanced way, allowed Deepwater Wind to come in with a proposal for a commercially-financed offshore wind project and to move it forward successfully.  In the process, Rhode Island got many aspects of the permitting process right. 

That process showed how to handle the permitting of an offshore wind farm effectively.  It allowed for input from the many stakeholders to be heard and used in meaningful ways wherever it was appropriate.  Ultimately, it resulted in a situation where the project was financeable, as opposed to many other projects at that time.  This was a result of the partnership and the close working relationship Deepwater Wind had with the state government and various agencies.  The financial markets became far more confident that offshore wind could really happen in the United States after so many starts and failures. 

The net reality about the Block Island Wind Farm was that it became a very important first piece of a multi-piece process that enabled the policy development in other states that was happening during that same period to also move forward.  Policy makers were watching this closely and there was a good deal of justified skepticism at that time.  But the fact that the wind farm was successfully permitted and was finally constructed helped policy makers in other states enormously.  They had heard about offshore wind as a theory that had never been successfully developed and saw it turned into something that was far more concrete. 

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