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ENVIRONMENT

Construction in full swing on Revolution Wind. Check out the first-of-its-kind workers' ship

Alex Kuffner
Providence Journal

PROVIDENCE – With nine of the 65 foundations for Revolution Wind turbines installed, construction of Rhode Island’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm still has a long way to go.

But that didn’t stop Gov. Dan McKee, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Elizabeth Klein and other federal and state officials from gathering in the Port of Providence on Thursday to mark progress on the 704-megawatt project being built about 17 miles southeast of Point Judith.

“Revolution Wind marks a pivotal moment not just for Rhode Island but our country’s offshore wind industry,” McKee said. 

He and the other dignitaries were in ProvPort to visit the facility built by developers Ørsted and Eversource to fabricate components for the wind farm and to tour the ECO EDISON, the first ship of its kind made in America that will house workers at sea as offshore construction continues.

The ECO EDISON, a ship that is housing workers at sea for construction of the Revolution Wind offshore wind farm.

Pieces built at ProvPort being shipped out to work

One hundred and thirty union laborers have wrapped up work on the Revolution components. The land around the fabrication facility is full of dozens of the towering pieces that over the coming months will be shipped out to the project site in Rhode Island Sound by a pair of boats.  

There are internal platforms to hold communications and electrical equipment that will be slipped inside the monopile foundations that will hold up the wind turbines, external decks that workers will use to get on and off the structures, and anode cages that will be bolted on underwater to prevent rusting.

“When we started here, this was a parking lot,” said Paul Murphy, senior director at Ørsted.

Paul Murphy, senior director at Ørsted, leads a tour of the Port of Providence, where components were built for the Revolution Wind offshore wind farm.

It was three years ago that Danish energy giant Ørsted and New England utility Eversource announced they would stage some of the work on offshore wind projects in the Northeast in ProvPort.  

The site was chosen because it had plenty of space, nearly 40 acres, to store blades and other big components. It was also strong, with enough ground-bearing capacity for the heavy pieces. And it’s also close to the ocean waters around Rhode Island and Massachusetts that have been targeted for offshore wind.

“The best way to build an offshore wind farm is to do as much work onshore as possible,” Murphy said.

The developers started using the port for construction of the South Fork Wind Farm, their 130-megawatt project that went into operation earlier this year in the same general area of waters as Revolution Wind. South Fork is sending power to Long Island.

Work is continuing in the port with Revolution Wind and could pick up again if ∅rsted’s new proposal, known as Starboard Wind, is selected as part of a regional solicitation by Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut for more supplies of offshore wind.

The submissions are being evaluated this summer, said Chris Kearns, acting commissioner of the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources.

Scientists:No link between whale deaths and offshore wind construction. Here's why.

Revolution Wind to be one of the first large offshore wind farms in America

Revolution Wind is not the first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island. That honor belongs to the Block Island Wind Farm, a 30-megawatt test project completed in state waters nearly eight years ago.

But with enough capacity to supply 350,000 homes, the Revolution project is of an entirely different scale.  

Most of its energy – 400 megawatts of capacity – will go to Rhode Island, while the remaining 304 megawatts will be delivered to Connecticut. That will make it the first multi-state offshore wind farm in the country when it goes into operation sometime next year.

It’s one of eight offshore wind farms that have been approved for federal waters by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. The South Fork project is the only one that’s been finished. Vineyard Wind, an 800-megawatt project that started offshore construction last year, has started sending some power to Massachusetts but is still not fully operational.

Many more projects around the nation are set to follow as part of the Biden administration’s push to develop 30,000 megawatts of offshore wind by 2030 to help reduce America’s reliance on fossil fuels. Lease sales are set to be held for up to 12 areas, including the Gulf of Maine, in the next five years, said BOEM director Klein.

Liz Klein, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, celebrates work on the Revolution Wind offshore wind farm at the Port of Providence.

The work in Rhode Island is emblematic of the national effort to ramp up renewable energy supplies, she said.

“There are innovators here at ProvPort rolling up their sleeves and taking action,” she said. “I think we can all have pride and confidence in the cleaner energy future that this hard work will bring us.”