With Block Island Sound project, Rhode Island can be #2 in wind energy growth

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Channing Jones

Environment Rhode Island

Providence — At a Department of Environmental Management hearing in Narragansett on Wednesday, Environment Rhode Island joined organizations and concerned citizens to voice support for final steps in approving the planned Block Island Wind Farm. Environment Rhode Island testified in support of offshore wind in Rhode Island, calling on state leaders to give necessary approval for the proposed cable that would connect the planned offshore wind farm to the mainland electric grid. The transmission line would run under a sewage discharge site at Scarborough Beach.

“With the Block Island project, Rhode Island may be the first U.S. state with offshore wind energy production,” said Channing Jones, Campaign Director with Environment Rhode Island. “Along with other clean energy sources like solar and efficiency, offshore wind will offset global warming emissions and other air pollution, while bringing good green jobs to Rhode Island.”

According to Wind Energy for a Cleaner America, a recent report from the Environment Rhode Island Research & Policy Center, Rhode Island has the potential to reap huge environmental benefits from offshore wind. With the development of the Block Island Wind Farm and other projects, the state’s wind energy production is expected to increase more than 25-fold over the next five years––a predicted factor greater than every other current wind-producing state but New Jersey.

“Harnessing the wind that blows off our shores will be essential in facing the climate crisis,” added Jones. “Hurricane Sandy is a tragic example of what climate change looks like. To avoid the worst impacts of global warming, we need to shift away from energy that threatens our climate with carbon.”

The new report shows that wind energy is now providing only 3000 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity in Rhode Island, but is on track to provide over 80,000 MWh by 2018 with the Block Island Wind Farm and other new wind development. Consequently, in 2018, wind energy in Rhode Island could avoid more than 44,000 metric tons of climate-altering carbon pollution––the equivalent of taking over 9000 cars off the road––while avoiding 26 tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides and 58 tons of sulfur dioxide, which cause acid rain and soot.

Environment Rhode Island submitted the report to the Department of Environmental Management, along with a letter released today calling for the development of offshore wind power as part of the Obama administration’s national Climate Action Plan. Seventeen Rhode Island leaders and organizations joined Environment Rhode Island, the National Wildlife Federation, the Conservation Law Foundation, and over 230 other organizations and elected officials nationally to submit the letter to President Obama.

Rhode Island’s expected progress on wind is in part a result of federal incentives for wind power. Despite the clear benefits of wind and widespread bipartisan support for federal policies to promote renewable energy, fossil fuel interests and their political allies have vigorously opposed these initiatives––and unfortunately, the investment tax credit (ITC) and the production tax credit (PTC) are currently set to expire at the end of 2013.

“Wind energy can improve our quality of life in Rhode Island,” said Jones. “On behalf of Environment Rhode Island’s citizen members in Narragansett and around the state, I urge our leaders to give final approval for the Block Island Wind Farm. At a national level, I applaud Rhode Island’s congressional delegation for their leadership on clean energy, and urge them to work with President Obama and do whatever it takes to extend federal wind incentives before the end of the year.”