Construction begins on nation’s first offshore wind farm

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) — Construction has begun off Rhode Island’s coast on the nation’s first offshore wind farm.

Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island. It hopes to power 17,000 homes as early as next year.

Dozens of state and federal leaders took a ferry ride Monday to see the construction in action.

Crews began attaching the first of the steel foundations to the ocean floor Sunday. The first one touching the seabed is known in the industry as the “first steel in the water.”

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell called the project a beacon for America’s “sustainable energy future.”

“It’s a big deal,” she said.

Chris Van Beek, president of Deepwater Wind, said the sea is the perfect spot for this kind of wind farm.

“The wind is much better in the sea environment, so you also get a higher production,” he said.

Jewell said she hopes to build more offshore wind in the U.S. to replace burning fossil fuels — and Governor Gina Raimondo said focusing on renewable energy will also bring jobs.

“Welders, electricians, carpenters, laborers, engineers. This is what we need in Rhode Island and today’s a great beginning,” she said.

The foundations will rise about 70 feet above the waterline, about three miles off southeastern Block Island.

So far, only the steel bases have been installed. The full turbines will go up next summer.

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