Excitement filled the air in an industrial park in North Kingstown, Rhode Island yesterday, where Deepwater Wind invited the press and supporters to kickoff the construction of America’s first offshore wind power project. In March, after seven years of committed stakeholder engagement and successfully completing state and federal permitting processes, Deepwater Wind announced that their pilot project, the Block Island Wind Farm, is fully financed and on track to begin construction this year.
“We’re celebrating more than just an offshore wind farm… we’re celebrating, I think, the beginnings of a new U.S. industry.” – Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski
Yesterday, Rhode Island’s political leadership joined Deepwater Wind and local business, labor, and environmental community members at Specialty Diving Services to celebrate the more than 300 construction jobs that will be needed to craft the nation’s first five offshore wind turbines. We, in the crowd, were eager to see the crew at work, to finally catch a glimpse of the most tangible progress the offshore wind industry has known on this side of the Atlantic. First, we heard from some truly proud Rhode Islanders. One by one, the speakers expressed the overarching sentiment of the historic moment, that this project is the start of something big.
“Not only are we going to create jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has lower energy costs, more diversified energy supply and greener energy.” – RI Governor Gina Raimondo
“Today Rhode Island is leading the way.” – RI Senator Jack Reed
When the speeches wrapped up, we all donned our hard hats and poured into the construction zone. Everyone around us was hard at work, building the five foundations that will soon break ground on an industry that has been just out of reach in America for the more than twenty years it has been charging forward in Europe. It was an awesome sight.
NWF has celebrated every one of the Block Island Wind Farm’s milestones. We testified at public hearings, organized events to cultivate support, and wrote countless letters to a long list of newspapers touting our endorsement and highlighting Deepwater Wind’s active commitment to protecting coastal and marine wildlife and habitat throughout every stage of development.
Yesterday’s event was a testament to what open and collaborative determination can do. In this case, launching America’s offshore wind power industry from a small island off of the smallest state.
“Rhode Islanders should be very proud,” responded NWF’s Northeast Regional Executive Director Curtis Fisher. “They and their elected officials are national leaders in advancing a clean energy economy that keeps their hard-earned dollars local — creating new jobs and a prosperous community. The first-in-the-water Block Island Wind Farm replaces dirty diesel generators that were costly and polluting. We also commend the project developer, Deepwater Wind, and the state for agreeing to go beyond current regulations to protect the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.”
Perhaps most noteworthy about yesterday’s event, were the many flavors of optimism that could be overheard.
“I hope we can continue to think big.” – RI Senator Sheldon Whitehouse
Environmental advocates were thrilled by the win for a massive untapped clean energy solution that has enormous potential to reduce our reliance on carbon polluting fossil fuels and can protect wildlife and habitat throughout every stage of development.
Labor community leaders took to the podium with enthusiasm for the long-term, high-quality jobs the offshore wind industry will bring to coastal and inland communities. Governor Raimondo and Rhode Islands federal and state legislators repeatedly emphasized the benefits state ratepayers will enjoy with a more diverse and local energy portfolio. Uniting everyone, above all, was the welcome confidence that we were sharing in the kickoff of one project that will itself lead a new clean and responsible energy era.
We’ll be tracking every stage of the Block Island Wind Farm’s construction on NWF’s blog and on the NWF Northeast Facebook page, so stay tuned!