Officials react to wind farm going live

Fri, 12/16/2016 - 10:45am

The news that the Block Island Wind Farm kicked off commercial operation this week garnered reaction from federal, state and local officials. 

Lynn Orr, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Under Secretary for Science and Energy, told The Block Island Times: “The completion of America’s first offshore wind farm is a significant milestone in our nation’s continued shift toward a clean energy future. DOE’s recently released National Offshore Wind Strategy estimates that harnessing offshore wind could provide power to millions of homes near major coastal load centers and create hundreds of thousands of jobs. More research and development work remains, but the Block Island Wind Farm is an exciting first step.”  

U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and cosponsor of the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act, said, “America’s first offshore wind farm was built thanks to the ingenuity, innovation, investment, and collaboration of many people working together. These five massive turbines spinning above the ocean are technological marvels and a tribute to the outstanding work of our laborers, trade unions, engineers, and clean energy technicians. I hope that in addition to providing clean, renewable energy, the offshore wind model we’ve put in place here can generate more wind projects and good-paying jobs.”

“It’s official: America’s first offshore wind farm is powering homes and businesses with clean, reliable energy,” said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse. “This is a historic milestone for reducing our nation’s dependence on fossil fuels, and I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s happening here in the Ocean State. Congratulations to all of the many partners whose years of diligent planning and outreach have put Rhode Island at the forefront of clean energy innovation and positioned our offshore wind industry for growth.”

“The Block Island Wind Farm is a symbol of Rhode Island’s national leadership in one of the most innovative industries in the country,” said Rep. David N. Cicilline. “As a nation, we have an obligation to respond to the threats posed by climate change, and offshore wind energy promises to help us reduce our carbon pollution and create good-paying, sustainable jobs right here in Rhode Island. The start of commercial operations at the Block Island Wind Farm is an important step that marks the beginning of a new era in America’s green energy industries.”

U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin said, “Each step of the way, each milestone achieved in the life of the Block Island Wind Farm, has been building to this moment. This is a historic and groundbreaking project for Rhode Island and for our country. I am so proud and excited to see the blades of progress turning and the wind farm in operation," 

Abigail Ross Hopper, Director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told The Block Island Times that, “As the nation’s pioneering offshore commercial wind farm, the knowledge gained from the Block Island Wind Farm will benefit future projects to be developed on the outer Continental Shelf. This is an exciting time for Block Island residents, the offshore wind industry and our entire nation as we continue progress in developing sustainable resources off America’s coasts.”

Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council Executive Director Grover Fugate said, “The CRMC congratulates Deepwater Wind on the Block Island Wind Farm being operational. This is a great day for Rhode Island, another in many other firsts for our state and the nation of late, and the CRMC is glad to have been a major player in the process. Through the development of the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan, the CRMC provided a predictable, streamlined permitting process for this and future offshore renewable projects that is unlike anything in the world. We are proud to be a pioneer in that regard.”  

CRMC spokesperson Laura Dwyer said, "At the November meeting, the Council voted to approve the commercial operation of the wind farm, the final approval needed from CRMC for the project. The vote was unanimously in favor." 

Jen McCann, who is a director at URI's Coastal Resources Center, and led implementation of the Ocean Special Area Management Plan, said, "I feel very proud to be a Rhode Islander.  We as a state — government, universities, resource users, non-profits, industry, and citizens — came together, and were able to develop a plan that considered the needs and concerns of Rhode Islanders now while also creating something that considers the well-being of the next generation."  

Locally, New Shoreham Town Manager Jim Lathrop told The Times that he is a supporter of renewable energy. "Projects like the Block Island Wind Farm do more than power our homes; they power the economy and create good paying jobs," he said. "I congratulate and applauded Deepwater Wind for reaching this milestone." 

First Warden Ken Lacoste said he was “very excited about the milestone event and its significance in the overall scope of the project. The goal is definitely to get the Block Island Power Company online as soon as possible, and to complete the transition to BIPCo’s next public manifestation, whatever that may be.” 

“The reality of the island benefiting from its associated wind farm is multilayered,” added Lacoste. “Being tied into the mainland power grid via the power cable, eliminating the noise and smoke of the generators, supplying the visual proof that a large scale project like this can be accomplished offshore on this side of the Atlantic, the springboard effect on the future of the offshore wind industry, and the positive side effects on the marine environment, are all byproducts of this reality.”

Former First Warden Kim Gaffett said she was pleased to know that the wind farm was operational. "Now, lets get those electrons coming to the island's grid, and let's turn our attention to the post-construction monitoring of the environment, and start documenting the tangential cultural, social and economic benefits," she said. "And, before we know it, the 20-year permit will be either expiring, or up for renewal. Perhaps the new ownership of Block Island Power should make long term plans to support renewal of the permit, and perhaps add the wind farm, or some part thereof, to their asset holdings."