It is not every day you get to witness history. As someone who has spent over a decade trying to spur progress in transitioning to clean energy and advancing solutions to climate change, today was without a doubt the most exciting day of my career.
It can sometimes be challenging to see tangible progress in our pursuit of a clean energy future, but today I was lucky enough to go out on the water and see the construction underway for America’s first offshore wind power project off Block Island. It is truly the beginning of a new energy chapter for America! Congratulations to Deepwater Wind for making it happen.
National Wildlife Federation was proud and honored to join US Department of the Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abby Hopper, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, US Senators Whitehouse and Reed, US Representatives Langevin and Cicilline, key members of Rhode Island’s state government, our Rhode Island affiliate the Environment Council of Rhode Island, and so many more in celebrating this incredible milestone out on the water today. As the boat approached the construction site, the energy was palpable as everyone broke out in cheers to celebrate this incredible milestone. There were lots of hugs and high fives as we all looked out at what can and must be the beginning of something BIG. Not just the beginning of this project, which will start producing power next year, but the beginning of a major new energy chapter for America.
“Rhode Island is leading America toward a clean energy future with the construction of this project. The Block Island Wind Farm will provide pollution-free energy, keep energy dollars local, and create hundreds of new jobs – all while ensuring treasured wildlife like endangered Right Whales are protected,” said Collin O’Mara, president and CEO of National Wildlife Federation, who took part in a boat tour of the Block Island site today. “This is a great example of how offshore wind power can be a win for both people and wildlife. Now is the time for bold commitments from state leaders up and down the east coast to ensure this transformational resource plays a major role in our energy future.”
In many ways this is a Block Island story – since the five turbines that will ultimately spin off their shores will power the entire island, replacing an old, expensive and highly polluting diesel generator. This is also a Rhode Island story – given that the State’s visionary ocean planning process played a critical role in siting this project and ensuring it moved forward with strong stakeholder support. But fundamentally it is a national story – today, America has finally taken our first step toward harnessing the abundant winds that blow far offshore. It is finally happening!
Offshore wind power’s American debut is long, long overdue. For over 20 years, offshore wind power has been producing thousands of megawatts of pollution-free energy and spurring transformative job creation overseas. We have a world-class wind resource along the Atlantic seaboard, and it is time for us to take advantage of the significant environmental and economic benefits this booming global industry has to offer.
National Wildlife Federation is a strong advocate for responsibly developed offshore wind power, and we are proud supporters of the Block Island Wind Farm. This project is a shining example of how renewable energy development can and must be done right – with science-based planning, extensive stakeholder engagement, and true leadership from state and federal government as well as industry. NWF has worked closely with Deepwater Wind to ensure that endangered North Atlantic right whales are protected throughout the offshore wind development process, and we applaud this industry leader for setting a strong precedent for responsible offshore wind power development with America’s first project.
Offshore wind power offers an unmatched opportunity to diversify our energy portfolio with clean, local power. It is uniquely valuable to state energy planners because its peak production coincides with moments of peak power demand: summer afternoons and winter cold snaps. It can create tens of thousands of long-term, high-quality US jobs. It is ready to go, but it requires the political will of our elected federal and state officials to become reality. A promising example of the state commitment needed has been introduced in Massachusetts, where the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has leased enough area offshore to meet the needs of more than half of the homes in the Commonwealth. In Massachusetts and elsewhere, these will just be numbers on a page until states commit to creating a stable market capable of helping launch an industry.
Today was an inspiring reminder that big change can happen. America can begin a new energy chapter powered by clean, inexhaustible offshore wind. It starts with one foundation for one turbine at one project off one state – but it can and must be the launching pad for a robust offshore wind industry that can power millions of homes, businesses, and vehicles all along the coast with pollution-free energy. In order for America to charge forward and ensure that offshore wind power plays a major role in our energy future, we need continued bold leadership from our federal and state leaders to commit to making it happen.