NEW SHOREHAM – The Rhode Island Fast Ferry backed away from its berth at Quonset Point and headed south past Jamestown, with strong winds blowing across the upper deck as it passed oyster farms, homes historical and other features of Rhode Island’s coastal environment along Narragansett Passage west of the bay.
The New England for Offshore Wind Coalition chartered the ferry on Tuesday, September 20 for a trip to the Block Island Wind Farm, allowing a mix of approximately 100 politicians, lobbyists, consultants and renewable energy advocates from across New England to see five of the seven offshore wind turbines in operation in the United States up close.
Among all the curious visitors from Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, three local lawmakers were also on board, checking out the turbines and soaking up relevant information for their constituents.
State Representative Michelle McGaw, D-Portsmouth, and State Senator Dawn Euer, D-Newport, both represent communities in Newport County, and Alana DiMario is the State Senator for North Kingstown, Narragansett and Block Island – the communities in Rhode Island that have been most directly impacted by the offshore wind so far.
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DiMario pointed out that in addition to his Block Island constituents getting their electricity from the farm, his district also encompasses Quonset, where Orsted’s 100-turbine Revolution Wind Project intends to land its transmission line, and Galilee in Narragansett, where many of the state’s commercial fishermen dock their boats.
She considers the Block Island farm a success and stressed that islanders will not feel the strain that many Rhode Islanders will experience due to significantly increased fuel costs this winter.
“People ask a lot of questions”
McGaw, who represents Portsmouth, Tiverton and Little Compton, appreciated the opportunity to learn more about offshore wind and see a working wind farm in person. She said offshore wind is an increasingly common topic she hears about from her constituents, especially following the Mayflower Wind application to run a transmission cable along the Sakonnet River and through Island Park in Portsmouth.
“People have a lot of questions,” she said. “People are cautious. I try to learn and share as much information as possible.
The country’s first offshore wind farm, consisting of five GE Haliade turbines, each producing 6 megawatts of electricity with a 330ft tower topped by three 240ft blades, is located 3.8 miles off Block Island and is owned to Danish offshore wind titan Orsted, which acquired the project from original developer Deepwater Wind in 2018 for $510 million.
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The five wind turbines, which were state-of-the-art when they were built, but will look puny compared to the new 16-megawatt models that will will soon be installed at other offshore wind farms being built off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusettsprovide all of Block Island’s power, replacing diesel generators that used to burn over a million gallons of fuel per year.
The farm’s success has helped position Rhode Island as a regional and national leader in offshore wind, just as renewable energy and its related industries are poised to boom in the next few years.
What is the impact of the Block Island wind farm on marine life?
Among several speakers aboard the ferry, each delivering short remarks as the boat slowly circled the turbines, Captain Dave Monti stood out. Monti has been fishing Rhode Island waters for more than 50 years, runs charters out of Wickford and writes a weekly fishing report for The Providence Journal.
He acknowledged that many fishermen who ply the waters of Block Island were concerned, if not outright opposed, to the wind farm when it was first proposed, the results of a state-mandated seven-year fishing study and financed by the developers of the wind farm. published in May in the peer-reviewed journal ICES Journal of Marine Science offered very reassuring results.
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The study not only proved that there was no significant negative effect on fish that live near the sea floor – demersal fish – and invertebrate populations during the construction and operation of the farm, but that the farm actually resulted in higher concentrations of Atlantic cod and black sea bass, around the turbines.
Some of the fish caught in the study also had mussels in their stomachs, indicating they may be eating mussels growing on the foundations of the turbines.
Rhode Island turns to renewable energy
Euer, who represents Jamestown and Newport, explained that she actually moved to Rhode Island to pursue her law studies in part because of the specialty in maritime law offered by Roger Williams University and its relevance to the processes. legal requirements for the development of offshore wind leases.
She played a key role in the proposed Rhode Island Offshore Wind Tender, a solicitation for 600 to 1,000 megawatt offshore wind supply to be released by Governor Dan McKee’s office on May 15. October after 30 days of public comment. period.
The tender was mandated by the Affordable Clean Energy Security Act passed by the General Assembly in July. The assembly also passed legislation in July requiring that 100% of Rhode Island’s electricity needs be met by renewable energy by 2033.
Contextualized by Rhode Island’s participation in the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership recently launched by the Biden administration, which calls for the production of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the United States by 2030 , it is clear that Rhode Island is at the forefront of a multi-billion dollar launch that is poised to revolutionize coastal economies and state power grids.
Off Block Island, those who look closely can glimpse the future.