The moment America begins harnessing the power of offshore wind – a critical climate change solution – is finally just weeks away. On Monday, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo passionately addressed a crowd of labor, business, conservation, and local leaders proud to make history in the Ocean State by launching the nation’s next energy chapter.
Governor Raimondo stood on a stage at the Port of Providence, alongside Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski and Board Chairman Bryan Martin, in 90-degree heat, with an unprecedented backdrop: 15 blades – each 241 feet long and weighing 29 tons – ready to complete the Block Island Wind Farm and generate enough clean local energy for 17,000 homes.
Offshore wind power has been a sorely missed opportunity here in the U.S., despite the fact that this booming global industry has been producing clean power (and supporting tens of thousands of jobs) for over 20 years. The political challenges of launching something so massive, of recognizing the value of investing in infrastructure and expertise, has kept the potential of U.S. offshore wind power at bay for far too long. America’s Atlantic Coast is home to a world-class offshore wind resource, largely accessible with commercially available technology. For more than a decade, developers and clean energy advocates have been working to shine a light on the transformational environmental and economic benefits this abundant power source can deliver.
Arguably, nothing will make the case stronger than finally having five of the world’s largest and most advanced offshore wind turbines spinning off our shores. The Block Island Wind Farm will meet all of Block Island, RI’s needs with just 10 percent of the power it generates. The rest will go to the mainland with a bi-directional cable connecting Block Island to the mainland for the first time ever. And perhaps the most important part of this story is what the project will be replacing: an old, polluting diesel generator that requires a million gallons of diesel fuel to be ferried to Block Island every year. And because the current arrangement is hardly economical, the Block Island Wind Farm will reduce local electric rates by approximately 40 percent.
The Big Picture
Excitement filled the air in Providence. Not just because America’s first offshore wind power project felt more real than ever, but because it is happening along with a palpable wave of momentum for offshore wind power throughout the Northeast region. The Block Island Wind Farm is a historic milestone for America: getting a project built, demonstrating that it can be done, and modeling how to do it right for wildlife and communities affected by the project.
This week, the Massachusetts legislature is moving toward passage of the nation’s largest commitment to offshore wind power — a scale that can drive down the cost of the technology, create thousands of local jobs, replace retiring coal-fired and nuclear power plants, and help protect wildlife and communities from the threat of climate change. And just last month, a lease auction was announced for 81,000 acres of federal waters off the coast of New York, designated for offshore wind development.
“Massachusetts and New York have finally woken up… This industry is about to take off.” – Deepwater Wind CEO Jeff Grybowski
Responsibly developed offshore wind power has the potential to be a major pillar of our energy future. The Block Island Wind Farm must be the start of a new era, and there is good reason to believe that it will be. We need to ensure this success story is told from coast to coast, that it serves as a model for scaling up clean energy offshore and powering our dense, strained coastal energy markets.
Now is the moment to speak up. It’s working! Together, we are charting a cleaner path forward for wildlife, wild places, and future generations.Urge your Governor to lead on offshore wind power!