Largest Offshore Wind Farm In U.S. Proposed For Rhode Island Coast

12/09/2010 04:35 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A renewable energy company has proposed what it says would be the largest offshore wind farm in the United States: a 200-turbine, 1,000-megawatt project off the coast of Rhode Island that would provide power to multiple states along the East Coast.

Deepwater Wind LCC, which recently moved its headquarters from New Jersey to Providence, says the turbines would be far enough offshore as to be barely visible from land and would be located in the ocean waters of Rhode Island Sound.

The company has submitted an application for the project, estimated to cost between $4 billion to $5 billion, to the U.S. Department of the Interior to lease the site where it plans to build the wind farm. It hopes to begin construction in 2014 and have the first turbines in operation by the end of 2015.

The project will require state and federal approval.

"We're just at the beginning of the federal review process. It's a lengthy permitting process, and I think the site we've proposed isn't written in stone," Deepwater Wind CEO William Moore told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

The company says it's planning an undersea transmission network that would connect the project to eastern Long Island and southern New England and send power to states including Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Deepwater Wind says the project's large size would mean lower prices compared with other proposed wind farms.

"We've done a lot of engineering of this project and are confident that we can come up with a cost that's a whole lot less than what's been discussed to date," Moore said.

The federal government this year approved the Cape Wind project, a 130-turbine wind farm planned for Nantucket Sound. The starting price is 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour – about double today's price of power from conventional sources – and increases 3.5 percent per year for the life of the contract.

Outgoing Rhode Island Gov. Don Carcieri and Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick signed an agreement last summer to look into wind development in the federal waters around both states. Massachusetts looks forward to learning more about the Deepwater Wind proposal, said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles.

"No project will go forward without the agreement of both governors, and the states sharing economic benefits equitably," Bowles said in a statement.

The Deepwater Wind proposal is on top of a much smaller pilot project planned by the company off the coast of Block Island. Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick Lynch has appealed the power purchase agreement to the state Supreme Court, saying the 24.4-cents-per-kilowatt deal would force Rhode Islanders to buy overpriced electricity.

Michael Trainor, a spokesman for Gov.-elect Lincoln Chafee, said Wednesday that Chafee was "an enthusiastic supporter of renewable energy and looks forward to Rhode Island being a leader with renewable energy and having so-called green jobs being a part of our economic rebound." Chafee was briefed on the proposal Tuesday.

But he also said Chafee was mindful of the pending court case before the Supreme Court.

"His position on this specific proposal will of course be informed by the outcome of this litigation," Trainor said.