U.S. Interior Secretary: R.I., Mass. are leaders in offshore wind power

Source: BY ALEX KUFFNER, Providence Journal • Posted: Monday, November 4, 2013

PROVIDENCE, R.I. — U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell told attendees at an offshore wind power conference on Tuesday that Rhode Island and Massachusetts are playing key roles in the development of the nascent industry.

“The region is off to a great start,” she said. “The load is here. The people are here. The water is here. There is great, great potential.”

No offshore wind farms have been built so far in the United States, but developers have targeted the Atlantic Ocean waters off Rhode Island and Massachusetts for installation of what could be the nation’s first offshore wind turbines.

Last month, Jewell signed an agreement to lease 257 square miles of federal waters in Rhode Island Sound to Providence-based Deepwater Wind. The waters, located between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard, could support enough turbines to generate power for up to one million homes, Jewell said at the conference organized by the American Wind Energy Association, an industry group.

Deepwater, which is also working on a demonstration project southeast of Block Island, won its two leases last summer in the first auction ever held by the federal government for offshore renewable energy development rights. A second auction was held for an area off Virginia in September. Competitive sales are also expected to be held next year for areas off New Jersey, Maryland and Massachusetts.

Jewell, who was appointed to her position six months ago, said that offshore wind is an important piece of the Obama administration’s drive to develop 20 gigawatts of renewable energy on public lands and waters across the U.S. by 2020.

“Clean energy is critical to our future,” she said. “You have my pledge that we will work with you.”