U.S. Energy Secretary praises Rhode Island for role in offshore wind power

Source: By Alex Kuffner, The Providence Journal • Posted: Sunday, December 5, 2021

PROVIDENCE — The new building rising up in the Port of Providence will soon become home to a fabrication hub for offshore wind farms proposed in the ocean waters stretching from Massachusetts to New York.

It’s expected to be completed in the spring and by the summer should be churning out components for the South Fork Wind Farm, a project of up to a dozen turbines that was just approved by the federal government for Rhode Island Sound.

With the steel skeleton of the facility as her backdrop, U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm spoke of the promise of offshore wind, saying that projects like South Fork will generate the clean energy that America needs as it transitions from fossil fuels.

She also said investments in renewable energy are already paying off by generating jobs in Rhode Island and elsewhere. For the construction of an offshore substation alone, 350 workers in three states are required.

“This is creating jobs all across the country even though it’s being installed off the coast,” she said.

Granholm was in Providence as part of a two-day swing through New England to talk about the Biden administration’s plan to overhaul the country’s infrastructure, from roads and bridges to telecommunications to drinking-water systems to energy networks. Her first stop was in Connecticut and she is to appear in Boston on Friday.

She came to Rhode Island at the invitation of Gov. Dan McKee, who said he wanted to showcase what the state has done to support offshore wind. The first offshore wind farm in the nation, a 30-megawatt demonstration project, was installed in state waters off Block Island five years ago. And the state has signed on for another 400 megawatts of capacity from a much larger wind farm known as Revolution Wind planned far off the coast.

The aim, he said, is for Rhode Island to serve as the “base camp” for the industry’s supply chain. Already, Ørsted, the Danish company partnering with utility Eversource on the South Fork and Revolution proposals as well as another off New York, has opened offices in Providence. So too, the governor added, has GEV Wind, a turbine-maintenance company headquartered in England.

“We were the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution,” he said, pointing to Slater Mill in Pawtucket. “And now we’re going to be the birthplace of the wind revolution.”

Granholm applauded Rhode Island for what’s been done so far.

“This is the poster child for how we want to do this on the coasts,” she said. “This is the way it should be.”

The $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill signed into law by President Biden last month is expected to boost offshore wind by setting aside money for research and development and for upgrading transmission lines that deliver energy to cities and states. The Build Back Better legislation under consideration in Congress would do more by providing additional tax credits for renewable energy.

Granholm focused her comments on the economic benefits of clean energy. Referring to her recent participation in the global talks on climate change in Glasgow, she said that countries around the world have adopted goals of getting to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

“They need the products to be able to do that,” she said. “That’s obviously wind turbines, but it’s a bunch of other products, too. The question is, ‘Who’s going to build that stuff?’ Well, we want to build it.”