QUONSET – Rhode Island Commerce Secretary Stefan Pryor this week announced the first round of awards of the Raimondo Administration’s new Site Readiness Program, among the list being Rhode Island Fast Ferry, a water transportation service company that runs ferry lines from Quonset Point to and from Martha’s Vineyard, charter cruises around Narragansett Bay and commercial transportation service for the Block Island Wind Farm. The initiative will see RIFF receive up to $30,000 in the form of a grant to offset the costs of the company’s expansion of its commercial transportation services to offshore wind facilities.
“I am thankful for receiving the award,” said Charles Donadio, RIFF President. “I have spent close to $100,000 in permitting fees and will be investing another couple of million dollars in various landslide and water side improvements in the next two years. The improvements will make our site ready to grow with the offshore wind market and allow us to improve all of our ferry services that we currently offer as well any potential new services.”
The newly formed Site Readiness Program partners Rhode Island Commerce with municipalities, companies or developers to “catalyze developments throughout Rhode Island and to improve municipal development process,” according to a press release from Rhode Island Commerce. Specifically, the grant award to RIFF will be used to help offset the costs associated with acquiring permits for the company’s expansion of its offshore wind facility transportation service. Currently, RIFF owns and operates the country’s first Crew Transfer Vessel (CTV), Atlantic Pioneer, which has serviced the Block Island Wind Farm since 2016. Constructed 3.8 miles off the coast of Block Island that year, the five-turbine, 30 MW project is the first commercial offshore wind farm in the United States. In her recent State of the State address, Governor Gina Raimondo pledged to have Rhode Island be 100-percent powered by renewable energy sources by 2030.
“I’m thrilled to announce the first round of our site readiness awards,” said Raimondo. “These projects will spur economic growth and make nearly 300 acres of land across our state ready for potential development.”
“We are very pleased that, across our state, eleven cities and towns will soon be unlocking economic activity through the Governor’s new Site Readiness Program,” said Pryor. “With a series of modest but important investments, this initiative is helping to prepare sites for a range of development–from industrial to residential to wind energy-related projects. We thank Governor Raimondo for her leadership and the General Assembly for their support.”
The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation received 22 applications requesting a total of $4.4 million in site readiness assistance. After a deliberative review process, 15 projects were chosen for funding. The awards announced today take into account the readiness of the project to proceed, the potential catalytic impact of the project, and the extent the project involves additional, private investments or matched funds. For RIFF, the grant will support about a third of the costs associated with permitting for its expansion of commercial transportation services, including wind technicians and cargo, to and from offshore wind sites, both existing and in development. Many states on the East Coast have made similar pledges to Raimondo’s, and see offshore wind as a means of generating a significant amount of renewable energy to meet those goals. Accordingly, many offshore wind farms down the coast have been proposed, and their development is currently ongoing or pending. In order to complete the expansion of its service to these sites, permitting from the Coastal Resources Management Council, Department of Environmental Management, and Army Core of Engineers is required.
“Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s Quonset Point Facility is ideally located to support the offshore wind industry; in order to support this industry growth, shoreside investment in Rhode Island Fast Ferry’s terminal facility is needed,” reads a press release announcing the grant awards from Rhode Island Commerce.
Donadio said the grant would be mutually beneficial, as RIFF is leased on state property in Quonset.
“There’s going to be a lot more offshore wind farms built along our coast,” he said. “We’re going to grow with that industry. At the end of the day, I’m leasing property and we’re improving the state’s assets while growing my company and creating more jobs. It’s a win-win.”
The Site Readiness Program was created in Governor Raimondo’s FY 2020 budget and gained the support of the General Assembly. RIFF has been involved in an ongoing legal battle with Interstate Navigation, the company behind the Block Island Ferry, to begin running high-speed transportation services from Quonset Point to Block Island. A public transportation company, RIFF is largely overseen by the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers.