Today I was filled with patriotic pride as we celebrated a historic moment in our nation’s energy story: the installation of the foundations for America’s first offshore wind power project. Offshore wind power technology has been a steadily growing source of clean, reliable energy in Europe for nearly a quarter century. The Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island is our first step towards tapping this powerful, zero pollution, wildlife friendly source of energy.
With strong support from state and federal officials, Deepwater Wind collaborated extensively with partners and successfully navigated the regulatory process to launch a new industry. The State of Rhode Island and Deepwater Wind engaged in years of inclusive discussion, strategic ocean planning, surveying, and siting, all guided by sound science and the feedback from those who know Rhode Island’s waters best. The resulting project has established a gold standard of offshore wind power development and provides a model to replicate up and down the coast.
Throughout the project’s development, the National Wildlife Federation worked with Deepwater Wind and key partners (Conservation Law Foundation, Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Environment Council of Rhode Island, our state affiliate) to ensure that the project’s siting and construction protected local wildlife, especially the endangered North Atlantic right whale. Together we developed a detailed agreement to protect migrating right whales during all stages of siting and construction – an agreement they signed for both the Block Island Wind Farm and their larger endeavor over the horizon. Deepwater is proving that we can deploy cleaner sources of energy and protect wildlife at the same time.
By the end of 2016, the Block Island Wind Farm’s five offshore wind turbines will be online, generating enough clean energy to meet the needs of 17,000 homes. The turbines will replace a costly, polluting diesel generator that currently requires Block Islanders to import one million gallons of diesel fuel annually. Soon, the island will host an energy profile that matches its conservation legacy, protecting future generations and the island’s treasured wildlife and landscapes from the contamination of their air and water.
The Federation in partnership with the Environment Council of Rhode Island proudly endorsed the Block Island Wind Farm years ago – both as an exemplary project that protects wildlife and as a signal of support in the transition to cleaner sources of energy. From Deepwater Wind’s agreement to protect critically endangered right whales, to the close engagement of local fishing, boating, conservation, labor, and tribal communities, we are thrilled today to celebrate its construction.
It was also fantastic to see the strong support of U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management Director Abby Hopper, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo, U.S. Senators Reed and Whitehouse, Congressmen Cicilline and Langevin, state officials, and other close partners all on hand and working together in pursuit of wildlife-friendly offshore wind power. I am more optimistic than ever that we can face the challenges ahead, while putting folks to work and protecting our natural resources, as we seize America’s clean energy future.