Rhode Island Wind Project Flips Switch on America’s Access to Pollution-Free Energy

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Bronte Payne

Environment America

BLOCK ISLAND, RHODE ISLAND- Today is a historic moment for offshore wind in the United States. The first offshore wind project in the country, Block Island Wind Farm, began producing clean, pollution-free power to Block Island, an island located 13 miles south of mainland Rhode Island. For over a decade, offshore wind has been taking off around the world while the United States industry lagged. The completion and operation of the Block Island Wind Farm signals a breakthrough for offshore wind and the beginning of a new clean energy chapter for America.  

“The United States has finally tapped into the tremendous resource of offshore wind” said Bronte Payne, Clean Energy Associate with Environment America. “The Block Island Wind Farm and Deepwater Wind have led the way on offshore wind and shown a path forward toward a clean energy future.”

“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – and I’m proud to be the only governor in America who can say we have steel in the water and blades spinning over the ocean,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. “As the Ocean State, we’re motivated by our shared belief that we need to produce and consume cleaner, more sustainable energy and leave our kids a healthier planet – but also by this tremendous economic opportunity. With this project, we’ve put hundreds of our local workers to work at-sea and at our world-class ports and are growing this innovative industry. I applaud Deepwater Wind for leading the way.”

The 30 megawatt, 5 turbine project, completed by offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind, has the potential to supply all of Block Island with clean, renewable energy. The project is located three miles off the coast of Rhode Island and east of Long Island, New York. The project will save Block Island residents as much as 40 percent on electricity bills, while creating 300 jobs. 

“When Rhode Island homes and businesses turned on their lights today, they became the first Americans to make use of an entirely new homegrown energy source – offshore wind energy,” said Nancy Sopko, Manager, Advocacy and Federal Legislative Affairs for the American Wind Energy Association. “With the completion of America’s first offshore wind project we have opened the door to an ocean energy resource with vast potential. Harnessing the power of offshore wind at scale will mean many more well-paying jobs and billions of dollars invested in U.S. shipping and infrastructure.”

“By reducing the use of dirty fossil fuels, this project is great for the people of Block Island,” said Payne.  “And so many other communities can benefit from the technology. Offshore wind energy can help replace dirty power with clean power up and down the Atlantic Coast, putting us on a path to 100 percent renewable energy.”  

The Obama Administration’s leadership helps ensure that Block Island is the first of many offshore wind projects here in the U.S.. In September, the Department of Interior and Department of Energy released the National Offshore Wind Strategy that lays out a vision of 86 GW of wind energy by 2050. 

Along with the Obama Administration, some state officials along the Atlantic coast are embracing the potential for offshore wind to provide pollution-free energy and create clean energy jobs in their state. This summer in Massachusetts, Governor Charlie Baker, signed a new law calling for 1,600 MW of offshore wind development in the state, the largest commitment to offshore wind in the country. 

“Expanding wind energy in the United States, including offshore wind, will be critical to meeting our energy needs while preserving a clean environment,” said John Kostyack, Executive Director of the Wind Energy Foundation. “Offshore wind can bring local economic development and clean energy jobs that cut across a range of high tech, manufacturing, construction and operations sectors.”

Despite the progress made by the Block Island project, there is still work to do along the coast to ensure the drumbeat of development and investment continues and cements offshore wind as a key component to tackle climate change. While Massachusetts and Rhode Island lead the way, many states along the Atlantic Coast are still not poised to tap into this tremendous clean energy resource. 

“There is huge offshore wind potential along the Atlantic Coast, from Maine all the way to South Carolina. To truly take advantage of this pollution-free resource, we need state leaders to make clear long-term commitments to powering their states with clean, renewable energy like offshore wind power,” said Payne. “It is important that we build off this historic moment and ensure that the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm is the first of many powering the U.S..”