The Future of Offshore Wind in New England is Bright

Amanda Yanchury

On a beautiful, brisk, and windy fall day last week, director of ocean conservation Dr. Priscilla Brooks embarked upon a cruise out to the Block Island wind farm for a close-up view of our nation’s first offshore wind farm.

The 13-mile ride was bumpy, but well worth it, Brooks said. Standing some 560 feet high, with a 490-foot wingspan (that’s more than twice the size of a Boeing 747’s wingspan), each GE Haliade turbine is massive in size and symbolism, signifying a turning point toward New England’s renewable energy future.

The turbines are expected to be turned on next month and will produce electricity to power 17,000 homes. Built by developer Deepwater Wind, the Block Island wind farm is monumental as the first-ever offshore wind farm in the United States. And 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.

Block Island Wind

Vice president and director of ocean conservation Dr. Priscilla Brooks toured the Block Island wind farm last week ahead of next month’s “flipping of the switch” of the five-turbine wind farm.

New York Community Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the John Merck Fund, Mertz Gilmore Foundation, and Mitsubishi Corporation Foundation for the Americas hosted last week’s boat tour. Representatives from Deepwater Wind and GE Renewable Energy also attended the tour, describing the construction of the wind farm and GE’s state-of-the-art power generation technology.

During the trip, engineers could be seen working high up within the structures, conducting testing in preparation for “flipping the switch” that will make the wind farm fully operational within weeks.

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 SAMP – the state’s ocean plan – and as an advocate for the endangered North Atlantic right whale during the project’s pre-construction activities. And now, as the first-in-the-nation Northeast Regional Ocean Plan is set for approval, the Block Island Wind Farm will serve as a “how-to guide” for agencies, developers, the military, and others seeking to implement this new ocean management tool.

Upcoming Blog Series

In the weeks ahead, we’ll dive deeper into the formation of the Deepwater Wind Block Island Wind farm, showcasing the steps taken to arrive at this history-making catalyst in New England’s clean energy future: We’ll see what it took to lay the groundwork for offshore wind in Rhode Island, beginning with a legislative mandate that was written by CLF; take a look at the role of ocean planning and bringing stakeholders together in the siting of the wind farm; hear from a local Block Island resident; and learn about CLF’s role in the future of offshore wind for New England.

Offshore wind energy in America is just beginning. When built with proper consideration of the marine life, communities, and other ocean resources in mind, offshore wind energy has the potential to change the game entirely in our quest to rely less and less on fossil fuels and more on clean, renewable energy.

The future is windy – which is to say the future is bright for New England’s renewable energy economy, environment, and for all of us.

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