The USA is set to get its first operating offshore wind farm in 2012 now that the Governor of Rhode Island has signed an agreement with the developer of a $1.5 billion project.

Gov. Donald Carcieri has signed a joint development agreement with Deepwater Wind Rhode Island, paving the way for construction of a project that will provide around 15 per cent of all electricity used in the state. The first phase of the project is expected to be completed in late June 2012.

The conclusion of the agreement follows the selection of Deepwater Wind as the preferred developer late last year. The project sets the stage for Rhode Island to be a leader in the northeast USA’s emerging renewable energy industry, according to Carcieri.

“By establishing ourselves as an early leader in offshore wind energy production, Rhode Island gains an important competitive advantage in attracting alternative energy companies to the state,” said Carcieri, who announced in 2006 an ambitious plan for renewable energy to account for 20 per cent of electricity needs in Rhode Island.

The exact site of the development has not yet been determined. Phase one of the project will have a capacity of 20 MW, with construction scheduled to start in late 2010.

In the second phase of the project, Deepwater Wind will construct a utility-scale wind farm in a separate location, capable of producing 1.3 million MWh/year. The company has also agreed to establish a regional development office in Rhode Island as well as a manufacturing facility employing around 800 personnel.

The exact location of the wind project will be determined by Rhode Island’s Special Area Management Plan permitting process, which is led by the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council. That process will take about two years, according to the state.