Officials tour nation’s first offshore wind farm

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) — Three miles off the shore of Block Island and 600 feet above the water’s surface, the five wind turbines that make up the country’s first offshore wind farm will soon get to work.

On Friday, U.S. Sen. Jack Reed, members of the National Wildlife Federation and laborers boarded a boat at Quonset Park in North Kingstown and journeyed 16 miles from the mainland to get up close and personal with turbines as tall as the Prudential Center in Boston.

“We’re literally turning a page and going into a new era of alternate energy,” said Reed. “Not only great for the economy, but great for the environment. It’s very impressive.”

Deepwater Wind Vice President Matthew Morrissey said the 240-foot-long blades will begin to spin next month, generating enough energy to power 17,000 homes.

“Block Island residents were paying up to 68 cents a kilowatt hour and that power was generated by huge diesel generators in the center of the island,” Morrissey explained. “And those diesel generators were fueled by millions of gallons of diesel fuel being ferried from the mainland to the island.”

In addition to cutting the use of fossil fuels, experts say the turbines are eco-friendly.

“The foundations are right now currently just coated in mussels, so the sea life has kind of just grabbed right onto it,” said Catherine Bowes, Senior Manager at the National Wildlife Federation.

One thing those on the tour didn’t see were the people working hard inside the turbines to complete last-minute checks.

“As we speak, there are about 25 GE technicians in the cells themselves that we just saw today,” Morrissey added.

Sen. Reed said the offshore wind farm is likely to be the last built on Rhode Island waters.