This week, in a watershed moment for American clean energy development, Deepwater Wind “broke ground” on America’s first offshore wind project at Block Island, Rhode Island. This 30-megawatt (MW) wind farm will produce enough electricity to power all the homes and businesses on the island, replacing the diesel generators that the islanders previously relied on, while also sending power to the mainland through a newly installed undersea cable. The project, consisting of five wind turbines just off the island, will be complete in 2016.
“We are proud to celebrate breaking ground on the nation’s first offshore wind farm in Rhode Island as it brings local, clean power to all Block Island residents and 300 new jobs to the community,” said Bruce Nilles, Senior Campaign Director of the Beyond Coal Campaign. “However, this celebration is about something bigger: it highlights the nation’s transition beyond dirty, outdated fossil fuels to affordable clean energy. This is a shining example of how American ingenuity can take us forward and position us as leaders in the global clean energy economy. New England has stepped up as a leader in wind energy and shown us that clean, homegrown power is real, ready, and reliable.”
The project was originally conceived in 2009 when Deepwater Wind signed a contract with National Grid to provide 30 MW of power to Rhode Island and is sited in Rhode Island state waters. In 2013, the project went through a round of hearings in Rhode Island where Sierra Club stood alongside labor allies like LiUNA and environmental stalwarts like Audobon and the National Wildlife Federation in rallying community members and Rhode Islanders to testify in favor of the project.
“The importance of this day cannot be overstated. The Block Island Wind Farm is our Apollo 11 moment,” said Emily Norton, Director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club. “I am going to remember this day, and tell my kids and grandkids that I was there when the first U.S. offshore wind farm was built — that when we had a choice between bequeathing them a future powered by polluting fossil fuels that lead to extreme storms, heat waves and drought, we chose to power their future from the wind, and the sun, and smart technologies.”
The Block Island Wind Farm project is just the beginning of a burgeoning offshore wind industry in the United States. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has designated a wind management area off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts that has the potential to generate as much as 9,000 MW of clean wind power, which, if fully harnessed, would power 700,000 homes and create 43,000 offshore wind-related jobs on the east coast by 2030.
The change in America’s energy outlook over the last five years has been dramatic — coal power is on the decline, now making up only 39% of our energy mix. In fact, over the last five years, 188 coal fired power plants have retired or announced that they will retire. All while clean sources like wind and solar are cheaper than ever and growing at an enormous rate. Wind energy now powers 18 million American homes while solar power keeps the lights on in 3.5 million more.
“Moving beyond coal means more than just putting a stop to coal fired power; it means investing in America’s true clean energy promise,” concluded Nilles. “Today, on Block Island, we again prove that America can be a leader in creating a clean energy reality that ensures every person can breathe clean air, enjoy clean water and live in a world free from the threat of climate disruption.”