When the U.S. Department of Interior announced on Aug. 17 that it would start soliciting proposals for wind farms off the Rhode Island coast, Deepwater Wind was ready. The Providence-based company has spent the better part of three years refining a plan to construct a 1,000-megawatt wind farm off Rhode Island shores.
The developer has until Oct. 3 to respond to the Interior’s Call for Information. If Deepwater’s proposal passes muster, the company would be on track to bid for a formal lease, giving it the exclusive right to develop a wind farm in its requested area. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said earlier this month that he aimed to issue a lease as soon as next year.
“That’s where everyone is trying to get to: the actual lease,” Deepwater Wind Chief Administrative Officer Jeffrey Grybowski said. “So we’re enthused about his call for issuing a lease in 2012. That would be a good thing.”
A lease makes the roughly $5 billion project more enticing to investors, Grybowski said. A lease also may persuade potential buyers of electricity to sign power-purchase agreements. More contracts entice more investors.
Deepwater is not alone in seeking a lease for a part of ocean roughly between Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island. On Aug. 18, Massachusetts-based Neptune Wind announced it would seek a lease to construct a 500-megawatt wind farm.
But there is little doubt that Deepwater Wind has a jump on any proposal. On its blog – the company lacks a website – Neptune lists no phone number, no corporate offices and just two entrepreneurs as its partners.
Deepwater, on the other hand, has spent the last few years building up staff at its Providence headquarters to 11 people and counts New York hedge fund the D.E. Shaw Group as a major investor. Deepwater has also garnered strong support from state officials, who have generally backed the project as well as a separate Deepwater Wind proposal to construct five or six turbines in state waters off Block Island.