Warwick, Rhode Island, October 25, 2016 — Over 600 of the top developers, supply chain companies, investors, policy makers, and clean energy advocates filled the halls of the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibitionin Rhode Island today just as the nation’s first-ever offshore wind farm is on the verge of supplying enough clean electricity to power 17,000 American homes.
Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm, located about three miles southeast of Block Island off the coast of the Ocean State, consists of five turbines that can generate over 125,000 megawatt hours (MWh) a year. The electricity produced by Block Island has the ability to avoid 121,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions a year.
“We’re competitive here in Rhode Island, and we take a great deal of pride in knowing that we beat every other state to be the first with steel in the water and blades over the ocean,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and newly named Chair of the Governors Wind and Solar Energy Coalition (GWSC). “We have new opportunities to make things again, to be a leader in a new industrial revolution. We’re motivated by our shared belief that we need to produce and consume cleaner, more sustainable energy and leave our kids a healthier planet. But we’re also motivated by this tremendous economic opportunity.”
Other notable Rhode Island elected representatives joined Gov. Raimondo at the event, including U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, U.S Representative David N. Cicilline, and U.S. Representative Jim Langevin.
Rhode Island passed legislation this past summer growing the state’s renewable energy target from 14.5 percent by 2019 to nearly 40 percent by 2035. Building wind farms in Rhode Island, including Block Island, have already attracted more than $300 million in capital investment. According to the Wind Energy Foundation, growing wind power in Rhode Island could result in $240 million in electricity bill savings by 2050 and up to $744 million in savings through lower gas prices.
“We're proud to host AWEA here in Rhode Island, home to America's first offshore wind farm," said Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind. “AWEA's important work is critical to the growth of our industry. While the Block Island Wind Farm may have jumpstarted this new U.S. industry, we're confident that it's just the start of a much larger renewable energy sector that will power American communities for decades to come."
“Worldwide leaders are sensing and seeing the opportunity here in the U.S.,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “There’s unprecedented excitement in the industry, it’s palpable, and you can see it here with the increase in the number of attendees and exhibitors. The completion of the Block Island Wind Farm is far more than just a ribbon-cutting – it is the dawn of an entirely new source of U.S. energy. Thanks to strong political leadership, strong policies and an innovative industry, we’re seeing a pathway forward for offshore American wind power.”
That pathway is emerging through landmark legislation passed in Massachusetts, as well as other states, helping to grow interest from the most successful global offshore wind developers to American shores.
“We need to take this moment to recognize the accomplishment of getting America’s first-ever offshore wind farm completed, but we’ve only just begun,” said Nancy Sopko, Manager, Advocacy and Federal Legislative Affairs for AWEA. “We need to dive deeper into how to keep this momentum going. It is incumbent on all of our attendees to find ways to create a thriving U.S. offshore wind industry.”
Coastal and Great Lakes states account for nearly 80 percent of U.S. electricity demand according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). That demand is fortunately placed as U.S. offshore wind has vast potential to deliver clean, reliable electricity equal to roughly four times the generating capacity of the current U.S. grid.
There are 13 offshore wind projects in various stages of development, spanning 10 states, representing almost 6,000 MW of capacity off the East and West coasts, the Great Lakes, and Hawaii. Offshore wind has delivered vast amounts of clean energy to Europe for decades, while creating quality jobs and new high-tech manufacturing. Building on America’s legacy of offshore energy development in the oil and gas industry can help smooth the transition to a cleaner energy economy.
Developing offshore wind in the U.S. can bring with it thousands of manufacturing jobs, helping to revitalize America’s port cities. Every turbine requires around 8,000 parts. U.S. factories will help the industry cut costs and create American jobs by manufacturing and assembling those parts here at home. With stable policy in place, the Department of Energy found the U.S. could install a total of 86,000 MW of offshore projects by 2050, creating thousands of well-paying jobs in coastal communities.
As on land, offshore wind power has no fuel price risk and thus hedges against future increases in fuel prices, thus saving consumers money. Similar to land-based wind, offshore wind costs will likely come down as the U.S. industry reaches economies of scale. With over 20 years of experience, cost reductions of offshore wind now being achieved in Europe should translate to the U.S. market.
AWEA’s Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition continues until Wednesday, October 26, and is the largest gathering of offshore wind energy professionals in the U.S. The conference is being held at the Crown Plaza Hotel Providence-Warwick, Warwick, Rhode Island and is powered by 100 percent wind energy through Renewable Energy Credits (RECs), thanks to green sponsor EDP Renewables.
Sponsors of the event include Terawatt sponsors DNV-GL, GE Renewable Energy, and Siemens.