NE4OSW Celebrates Regional Collaboration on Block Island Wind Farm Tour
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 27, 2022
Strategic Communications Director
New England for Offshore Wind
NE4OSW Celebrates Regional Collaboration on Block Island Wind Farm Tour
125 People Come Together to Support Offshore Wind in New England
BOSTON – September 27, 2022 – New England for Offshore Wind co-hosted 125 people from around the region on Sept. 20 for a boat tour of the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island.
“We were thrilled to welcome policymakers, labor leaders, advocates, and business leaders on a tour of the Block Island wind farm this week,” Susannah Hatch, Environmental League of Massachusetts Director of Clean Energy Policy and New England for Offshore Wind Regional Lead, said. “The tour was a great opportunity to see the turbines up close and to make connections to leaders in other states. Those connections and regional collaboration will be critical to ensure this renewable resource comes online in a timely and responsible way. Offshore wind is a once-in-a-generation opportunity for New England – it will be the linchpin of our decarbonization efforts and will drive enormous economic benefits to our region. We look forward to working together as a region to ensure that offshore wind is developed responsibly, creates equitable access to economic opportunity, and drives the creation of high-quality jobs.”
Generous support for the event came from coalition members Ceres, Environmental League of Massachusetts, League of Conservation Voters, Environment Maine, Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine Audubon, National Wildlife Federation, Maine Conservation Voters, Sierra Club, and IW Local Union 7; and allies RENEW Northeast and Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council.
While on site, the boat navigated around the five wind turbines that make up the Block Island Wind Farm as attendees listened to a speaker program that featured industry insights on labor, ports, business, fishing and wildlife, as well as an overview of the project by Nicole Verdi, Senior Manager for Government Affairs and Policy in New England for Ørsted.
“It is Ørsted’s mission that we want to thrive, and we also want to make sure that the fishing community thrives,” Verdi said. “We want to make sure that we are really being stewards of the ocean.”
During the speaker program, Jason Shedlock, President of the Maine State Building & Construction Trades Council, highlighted the opportunity for the offshore wind industry to “win the hearts and minds of mayors and people across the region.” To do that, he said, “we want to make sure that we’re providing high-quality, union jobs when it comes to building these critical structures.”
“When that’s the case, you’re lifting up communities up and down the coast, you’re providing opportunities for registered apprenticeship for young people, traditionally underrepresented populations, women, people of color, and veterans,” Shedlock said. “We have an opportunity to not only advance our environmental goals, but also advance the goals that we have for workforce development.”
With an offshore wind marshalling yard planned in Salem Harbor, Bonnie Bain, Offshore Wind Coordinator at Salem Alliance for the Environment, said on the tour that the alliance is “seeing a dream realized.”
“We’ve always really supported wind and wanted to see it at our port, and here we are, seeing a just transition to clean, renewable energy in Salem,” she said.
According to Bain, the new port facility represents a “true win” for economic and racial justice.
“As an environmental justice community, Salem and the neighboring region should be first to benefit from the wind industry jobs headed to our area, and we need these good paying, family supporting jobs,” she said.
Looking ahead at the offshore wind supply chain, Carol Oldham, Northeast Director at the Business Network for Offshore Wind, said there is an opportunity now for small- and medium-sized businesses across New England to expand.
“There are billions of dollars that have already been invested in offshore wind, and it’s projected to grow to $100 billion by 2030,” Oldham said. “But regionally, no single state can go it alone.”
“Whether it’s upgrading the ports or building the 100 vessels that we’re going to need; whether it’s manufacturing the blades or the cables, installing the wind farms or performing operations and maintenance, there’s plenty of work for everybody,” she said. “It is truly a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create these jobs in our region and to revitalize our domestic manufacturing because that’s something that’s sorely needed.”
As a charter captain and fisherman in the waters around the Block Island Wind Farm, David Monti, Vice-Chair of the Rhode Island Marine Fisheries Council, was very aware of the charter fishing industry’s concerns about the project early in its development.
A seven-year study conducted before, during and after construction showed positive effects on certain area fish, Monti said. The study found that “black sea bass and cod fish were in greater abundance in the wind farm than in control areas,” he said, adding that rates of other area fish were similar between the wind farm and control areas.
At Maine Audubon, offshore wind advocacy is important for addressing the current “dual crises” that wildlife faces, Eliza Donoghue, Director of Advocacy for the nonprofit, said.
“Climate change is the greatest threat to wildlife right now, and offshore wind stands to play a huge role in helping the U.S. and the world make the transition away from the largest driver of climate change—fossil fuels,” Donoghue said. And while offshore wind is exciting, she said, “it’s not without risks, particularly risk to wildlife,” including, for example, wind turbine collisions and critical habitat avoidance.
“Maine Audubon has been so proud to be working with others, to be learning from 30 years of experience in Europe and understanding how we can take on the mitigation hierarchy, how we can use techniques to avoid siting these turbines near important wildlife areas, how we can use techniques to minimize impacts through operations and other management practices, and how we can potentially compensate for those impacts,” Donoghue said.
At the end of the tour, Amber Hewett, Program Director for Offshore Wind Energy at the National Wildlife Federation, encouraged attendees to think about the U.S. offshore wind industry in the current moment.
“Many of us now spend a lot of time talking about offshore wind, thinking about it, envisioning what this can do for us and envisioning the opportunities and challenges,” Hewett said. “We have a lot of work to do together, not just to harness the capacity of this resource, but to make sure that we get everything out of it that we can because of this moment of intersecting challenges and crises that we face. We should do something really big in a way that solves as many challenges as we can at once.”
See more photos from the tour on flickr.
About New England for Offshore Wind
New England for Offshore Wind is a broad-based coalition of businesses and associations, environmental and justice organizations, academic institutions, and labor unions committed to combatting climate change by increasing the supply of clean energy to our regional grid through more procurements of responsibly developed offshore wind. We believe that responsibly developed offshore wind is the single biggest lever we can pull to address the climate crisis while also strengthening our regional economy, protecting ratepayers, creating high quality jobs, and improving public health by reducing pollution.