Learn About Wind

Wind in Rhode Island

Wind turbines use the energy of moving air to generate electricity. Turbines produce more power at higher wind speeds, which are typically found in areas with high elevations and low surface roughness. In Rhode Island, the most significant wind energy resources are concentrated in areas along the coast and offshore in ocean waters.

The use of wind to generate electricity is a relatively new undertaking in Rhode Island. The first commercial-scale wind turbine was installed in 2006 at the Portsmouth Abbey. As a small and densely populated state, Rhode Island does not lend itself to large onshore wind farms of the type seen in the Midwest and western states. Instead, Rhode Island’s wind power potential lies in municipal or small-scale commercial projects consisting of one or a few wind turbines, and in offshore wind farms.

As of December 2016, the Ocean State had an estimated installed wind capacity of approximately 23 megawatts (MW), with 21 systems 100 kilowatts (kW) and greater. In 2016, Deepwater Wind LLC completed construction on the nation’s first offshore wind installation, a five-turbine, 30 MW wind farm in state waters off the coast of Block Island. A much larger offshore wind project—up to 1,000 MW—is planned for development in federal waters off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Wind FAQs

Find answers to your questions about wind energy:

+ How does wind technology work?

Wind turbines use the energy of moving air to generate electricity. Click here to learn more about how wind technology works.

+ How much wind power potential exists in Rhode Island?

Wind energy resource potential is modest in Rhode Island compared to other regions of the country. Nevertheless, important in-state opportunities exist for developing wind energy. The state's most significant wind energy resource from a power production standpoint is offshore wind. The 2007 RIWINDS study, commissioned by the Rhode Island Economic Development Corporation (now the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation, or Commerce RI), concluded that over 95 percent of the wind energy resources available to Rhode Island are located offshore. Subsequent renewable energy resource assessments conducted in 2012 through the Renewable Energy Siting Partnership (RESP) helped further quantify the resource opportunities for land-based wind. Rhode Island's State Energy Plan suggests the state could develop as much as 70 MW of land-based wind by 2035.

+ How many wind turbines are there in Rhode Island?

As of December 2016, the Ocean State had an estimated installed wind capacity of approximately 23 megawatts (MW), with 21 systems 100 kilowatts (kW) and greater. Click here to learn more about existing wind turbines in the state.

+ How much of Rhode Island's electricity needs does wind energy provide?

Rhode Island consumes approximately 7,700 GWh of electricity each year. Assuming a 20% capacity factor, Rhode Island wind turbines generate a total of about 40,000 MWh per year. Therefore, in-state wind turbines currently supply roughly 0.5% of Rhode Island’s electricity needs.

+ What is a capacity factor and what does it mean for wind power?

Because the wind blows intermittently, wind turbines don’t produce power at their maximum capacity all of the time. Capacity factor refers to the percentage of time a wind turbine operates at its maximum rated capacity (i.e. nameplate capacity). A capacity factor is a ratio or percentage that represents a wind turbine’s actual energy output versus its maximum potential energy output. The value is typically reported as an annual figure, with the maximum potential energy output assuming the turbine could operate at its nameplate capacity continuously throughout the year.

In Rhode Island, onshore wind turbines typically see capacity factors around 20%. Because the wind blows more strongly off the coast, offshore wind turbines in Rhode Island are expected to achieve capacity factors approaching 50%.

+ How many homes can a wind turbine power?

A typical 1.5 MW onshore wind turbine in Rhode Island can power approximately 440 homes annually, assuming a 20% capacity factor and an average household use of 500 kWh. A 6 MW offshore wind turbine in Rhode Island can power over 4,000 homes annually, assuming a 48% capacity factor and an average household use of 500 kWh.

+ How much carbon dioxide does a wind turbine offset?

A typical 1.5 MW onshore wind turbine in Rhode Island can offset approximately 870 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, assuming a 20% capacity factor and a New England carbon dioxide emissions rate of 730 lb/MWh. This is roughly equivalent to taking 185 cars off the road, assuming annual emissions per car of 4.7 metric tons of carbon dioxide.

+ What programs and incentives are available to homeowners and businesses for wind projects?

Rhode Island offers a number of programs and incentives for wind. Click here to view which Rhode Island programs list wind as an eligible technology.

+ Where can I learn more about wind siting guidelines in Rhode Island?

Siting wind energy projects involves a carefully consideration of both the available wind resource and the potential impacts a project may pose to the surrounding area. A number of public-private partnerships and state initiatives have evaluated siting considerations associated with offshore and onshore wind in Rhode Island. Click here for more information on wind siting in Rhode Island.

+ Does installing a wind turbine on or near my property have any effect on property values?

A 2013 study conducted by the University of Rhode Island evaluated Rhode Island-specific data to understand the effect of wind turbines on property values. The study analyzed data from 48,554 single-family, owner-occupied housing transactions within five miles of turbine sites in Rhode Island over the time period from January 2000 to February 2013. The results of the study indicated that wind turbines have no statistically significant impact on house prices. For more information, please click here for more information on wind siting in Rhode Island.