Chafee sees state as future leader in wind energy, despite Cape Wind choosing New Bedford

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PROVIDENCE, Rhode Island — Rhode Island will have a major role to play in the offshore wind industry, even though a developer chose to use a Massachusetts port to build a large wind farm, Gov. Lincoln Chafee said Monday.

Rhode Island officials had hoped Cape Wind would use New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island's Quonset Point for the staging and construction of a proposed 130-turbine wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, bringing jobs and economic activity to both states. Cape Wind announced Friday it had signed a lease agreement with Massachusetts.

Chafee said Cape Wind will likely need support in Rhode Island for its projects. Company spokesman Mark Rodgers said Monday that Cape Wind is keeping its one-year option to lease about 14 acres at the Quonset Business Park in case it needs to use both ports.

And as projects for Rhode Island energy developer Deepwater Wind move forward, Chafee said, Rhode Island will become a leader in the industry.

Deepwater Wind plans to build five turbines off the coast of Block Island and a wind farm of at least 200 turbines for 1,000 or more megawatts between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard.

The company has an option to lease 47 acres at Quonset and has said it will likely establish logistics hubs, assembly facilities and long-term operations centers at Quonset and the Port of Providence.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said the smaller wind farm, a roughly $250 million project, could create 200 jobs locally during the construction phase, and the larger wind farm could create more than 1,000 jobs.

Grybowski said his company chose Rhode Island because there are strong winds off the coast, and it has the onshore infrastructure to support the industry.

"Rhode Island is perfectly positioned to be one of the major hubs on the East Coast for offshore wind," he said.

Cape Wind preferred to use the New Bedford port facility since it is much closer to the project site, as long as a new marine commerce terminal was built there in time, Rodgers said.

Cape Wind has until April to sign its lease at Quonset, and is paying about $4,800 a month for the option. Chafee said he will talk with Cape Wind officials about their needs for any overflow from New Bedford.

Construction of the New Bedford terminal began last year and is scheduled to be completed in December. Designed to support the construction and deployment of offshore wind, the terminal is the first facility of its kind in North America.

If the work on it is delayed or if the terminal is not large enough, Cape Wind may need to use a second port, Rodgers said.

The two-year lease agreement calls for Cape Wind to pay the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center $4.5 million in rent. The company expects to begin delivering energy by the end of 2016 and complete the project by 2017.

Deepwater Wind's Block Island project is fully permitted. Construction is slated to begin offshore next summer, so the wind farm can begin operating in 2016.

Deepwater Wind will soon begin conducting oceanographic surveys of the site between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard for the larger wind farm, before submitting permit applications. It could begin operating in 2018.

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