The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. has begun producing power off Block Island, a historic moment for New England and for the country. Deepwater Wind’s 30-megawatt, five-turbine farm will eventually power 17,000 Rhode Island homes – including all of Block Island and some of the mainland – and will have created a total of 300 local jobs.
This is the beginning of a new clean energy chapter for New England, and proof that new jobs and new industries will flourish in a future free from our addiction to fossil fuels. As rising seas and climbing temperatures threaten our coasts, marine life, and communities, cutting fossil fuel emissions is critical and urgent in the climate change fight.
Deepwater Wind deserves particular credit for seeing that good stewardship of the environment is also good business, engaging all key voices in the development process to minimize impacts to endangered North Atlantic right whales and other ocean resources while building its wind farm on-time and on-budget.
While the Block Island wind farm is monumental as the first-ever offshore wind farm in the United States, it definitely won’t be the last. Deepwater Wind has additional plans for a larger farm within the same leasing area, called Deepwater One, which will be built in phases and could eventually generate enough power to serve New England and Long Island. And recently, the developer announced plans for another project off the coast of Maryland.
Planning for Wind
Conservation Law Foundation has been involved in the development of the Block Island wind farm for many years, promoting local engagement and environmental consideration in the use of the Rhode Island Special Area Management Plan (SAMP) – the state’s landmark ocean management plan – and as an advocate for the endangered North Atlantic right whale during the project’s pre-construction activities. Using the SAMP, Deepwater Wind efficiently navigated regulations to advance the project, allowing Rhode Island to become the first to take advantage of this renewable resource.
And now, as the Northeast Regional Ocean Plan – also the first in the nation – heads into implementation, the Block Island Wind Farm will serve as an example for how agencies, developers, the military, and others can work together to avoid unnecessary barriers to renewable energy development.
Flipping the switch to power up the Block Island Wind Farm means that clean, renewable energy is no longer simply a vision for our future – it’s our here and now. With proper consideration of marine life, local communities, and other ocean resources in mind, offshore wind has the potential to change the game entirely in our quest to create free ourselves from fossil fuels for good, and, in turn, create a healthy, thriving New England for generations to come.