Donadio: docking hub could mean jobs

Thu, 10/04/2018 - 5:30pm

Atlantic Wind Transfers and Rhode Island Fast Ferry owner Charlie Donadio Jr. told the New Shoreham Town Council that the burgeoning local offshore wind industry could be an “economic benefit” to Block Island, leading to “a number of jobs.” Donadio spoke during the public comment portion of the Town Council’s Sept. 19 meeting, when he detailed developments of the offshore wind industry in the waters near Block Island. 

Donadio said developers have been leasing federal zones for constructing offshore wind farms between Martha’s Vineyard and Block Island, and there is a need for a docking facility hub at Old Harbor. Donadio owns and operates the Atlantic Pioneer, which is the crew transfer vessel for servicing the Block Island Wind Farm.

“It’s coming. Many people don’t know it’s coming,” said Donadio. “It’s 15 miles off your coast.” He said potentially “300 to 400 offshore wind turbines” could be constructed in nearby waters with the capacity to produce up to “3.5 gigawatts” of energy. The industry “is expanding rapidly up and down the whole east coast.”

“The next phase will happen off Block Island,” said Donadio. “Having a docking space on this island, and what these companies are looking for, is unavailable right now. I’d hate to see Block Island miss out on an opportunity where we would hire local people.” Donadio said local hires could “live on the island in the offseason and utilize the restaurants and hotels, and rent houses.”

“Thank you for coming, and bringing this to our attention,” said First Warden Ken Lacoste, who asked his fellow council members if they had any questions. “We’re not going to have a long discussion.”

“Do you have any idea about the number of jobs it would create — off the top of your head?” asked Second Warden André Boudreau, who noted that it was “nice to have a face to the issue” concerning the RIFF case.

“Well, as they say in the offshore wind industry — for every 100 turbines that are built there are 6,000 supply jobs created,” said Donadio. “What I see as a value to the island would be support vessels. They would have local captains, local deckhands, etc. I’m learning this because the developers are reaching out to my company.”

Boudreau asked Donadio if he currently had dock space at Old Harbor for the 65-foot long Atlantic Pioneer in order to service the wind farm.

“No,” said Donadio, who explained that he can’t always find dockage at Old Harbor for the vessel during the summer season. He noted that the vessel can dock at New Harbor, but that makes for a greater distance from the turbines — about 30 minutes — in the case of an emergency maintenance issue.

“Who is the wind farm developer that has the next, closest lease for the Montauk wind farm?” asked Councilor Chris Willi of Donadio.

“That’s Deepwater Wind. It will be roughly 15 turbines,” said Donadio, who noted that a few other developers were procuring offshore sites. “So, you’re going to soon have five different sites 15 miles off your coastline. It’s an industry that’s going to explode. That could mean a lot of jobs; a lot of economic benefit for Block Island.”