Connecticut Law Review Volume 45 - Issue 4

SECOND WIND: A LEGAL AND POLICY-BASED EVALUATION OF THE BLOCK ISLAND WIND FARM AND THE LEGISLATION THAT SAVED IT

Rhode Island has recently attempted to pioneer offshore wind energy development by passing new legislation and partnering with Deepwater Wind, LLC to develop a wind farm off Block Island.  This wind farm will have long-term implications, both as a demonstration project for future offshore wind energy, and as a paradigm for governmental expedition of renewable energy projects.

In support of this project, Rhode Island passed aggressive new legislation that severely constrained the discretion of the Public Utilities Commission in deciding whether a contract between Deepwater Wind and National Grid was “commercially reasonable.”  The resulting controversy underscores the importance of maintaining competition between renewable energy firms in order to avoid allegations of favoritism and neglect of constituent ratepayers.

This Note traces the still-developing history of the Block Island Wind Farm, along with its accompanying legal challenges, controversies, and stakeholder perspectives, in order to extract the lessons that can be applied in future renewable energy development.  The primary lesson that emerges is the political and economic price of circumventing the regulatory process through legislation that advantages one particular company.

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