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Green jobs off the coast of Rhode Island

Labor leaders visit first Atlantic windfarm that will provide union jobs and cheap electricity to surrounding communities

Kris LaGrange's picture
Oct 24, 2016

Recently, labor leaders from Long Island joined with labor leaders from Rhode Island to check out the Deepwater Wind project.  This offshore wind farm is a first of its kind in the United States.  The project, which is built off the Rhode Island coast, was built with entirely union labor.  Once the wind farm is completed, it will provide cheap electricity to Block Island as well as the mainland.  The project provided green, union jobs to men and women from both Rhode Island and New York.  Below we have included some media coverage of the trip. 

ABC 6: Rhode Island may be known for many things - and now it can be known for having the first offshore wind farm in the country. 600 feet in the air, $300 million dollars in, and eight years in the making the wind farm off Block Island is complete. "This is a great source of energy not only great for the economy but great for the environment," said Senator Jack Reed at a Friday media event. Five turbines will provide up to 6 megawatts of power to 17,000 homes on the island and the mainland. Matt Morrissey, Vice President of developer Deepwater Wind, explains what the turbines will eventually replace.

"Block Island residents were paying up to 68 cents a kilowatt-hour for power and that power was generated by huge diesel generators in the center of the island." Block Island will benefit from not only cheaper, cleaner energy...but also internet that will now be transmitted to the island through a giant underwater cable. Construction and assembly of the wind farm created 300 local, unionized jobs. Only about 10 will be permanent...but many more may follow. "Quonset Point could be the center for numerous jobs that are related to the wind industry. We've already proved we can do it."

But getting here was no walk in the park. Developers, federal, and state leaders had to overcome opposition from those concerned about the technology and its potential effects on wildlife. The National Wildlife Federation approves of the project."This project was constructed in a way that is protective of endangered right whales that are out in the area and that's something this developer took very seriously and that's something National Wildlife Federation has been following very closely."

"This is a reliable product used for decades in many places." But never before in America. "This is the first time a state has been able to effectively put up offshore wind...and I think it's going to be copied and we're going be seen as the leader as we should be." The turbines are still in their testing mode and should be live and generating power by mid-November.

Christian Science Monitor: Ironworker Roy Coulombe was one of the union reps approached by Deepwater Wind, a renewable energy firm, with a daring proposal: Back our efforts to lobby for the country’s first offshore wind farm, and we’ll make sure you build it.

Seven years later, Mr. Coulombe and his crew were among the 300 union laborers that constructed the 1,500-ton turbines that rise 600 feet out of the ocean off the coast of Block Island, R.I.

Coulombe and dozens of other labor leaders rode a ferry out to the five turbines on Friday, just weeks before the 30-megawatt system begins generating power for 1,700 homes on the island and mainland – and ushering in the era of offshore wind in the United States.

Read more in the Christian Science Monitor.

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