Will Offshore Wind Meet Rhode Island’s Energy Goals?

The population of the state of Rhode Island  is approximately 1.06 million people[1]. In July 2020, state utilities used natural gas (94.7%) and renewable energy (5.3%) to generate electricity in the state[2]. Hydropower, wind, and biomass are the primary sources of renewable energy in Rhode Island.

Rhode Island’s Renewable Energy Growth program to finance the development, construction, and operate renewable energy projects, contributes to the state’s high cost of electricity. In July 2020, the average cost of residential electricity in Rhode Island was 19.52 ¢ per kWh, compared to the national average of 13.24 ¢ per kWh.

Rhode Island is one of 30 states[3] with a renewable portfolio standard (RPS). The state’s RPS mandates that 100% of the electricity generated from all investor-owned and retail utilities be from renewable sources by 2030! Rhode Island has set a goal of installing 400 MW of new renewable energy projects from 2020 through 2029 in an effort to meet the state’s RPS requirement.

The first offshore wind farm in America began operation in the state waters of Rhode Island in 2016. Recent renewable energy developments in the state include:

  • Offshore Wind Tender Award – In May 2019, the Rhode Island Public Utility Commission approved a 20 year power-purchase agreement for the state to buy power from the Revolution Wind offshore wind farm. The offshore project is located in federal waters, approximately 15 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. Revolution Wind is scheduled to begin operation in 2023.
  • Brownfield Solar Project Program – In May 2020, Rhode Island began offering financial incentives for solar projects that are built on contaminated land, known as brownfields. The state has over 400 brownfield sites, suitable for major solar projects.
  • Offshore Wind Tender – In October 2020, Rhode Island announced plans for a second tender to procure additional power capacity from new offshore wind projects.

Rhode Island utilities have one the highest percentages of fossil fuel usage (94.7%) of any state in America. Rhode Island has also set the shortest time period of any state, 10 years for all the utilities to achieve 100% renewable energy.

Offshore wind projects have been operating in western Europe for over twenty years. However, America has just begun to develop our country’s vast offshore wind potential. Rhode Island will be severely challenged to meet their 100% renewable energy goal by 2030, unless they actively develop additional hydropower, solar, and onshore wind projects.


Jack Kerfoot

Website – “Our Energy Conundrum”


[1] Rhode Island Population 2020, World Population Review

[2] U.S. Energy Information Agency – Rhode Island State Profile and Energy Estimates

[3] National Conference of State Legislators – State Renewable Portfolio Standards and Goals, April  17, 2020

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