Offshore Wind: Protecting Wildlife and Creating Jobs

There is nothing like seeing a clean energy revolution up close and in-person, especially when you’re in a boat underneath a 600-foot wind turbine in the waters just off of Block Island, Rhode Island.

More than 3,000 offshore wind turbines can be found across the globe. Yet, until this year, there were none in America. Now, we eagerly await our country’s first five offshore wind turbines to begin generating electricity by the end of the month.

We’ve talked quite a bit about the benefits offshore wind will provide wildlife. It is an efficient and proven technology that can help reduce the impacts of climate change that are hurting species across the region and globe. The Block Island developer, Deepwater Wind, worked closely with the National Wildlife Federation to follow voluntary procedures that minimized harm to sensitive species such as the North Atlantic right whale. But, wildlife protection is only part of the story. Deepwater Wind also pledged to hire more than 300 local union workers to construct the turbines.

Offshore wind is an incredible opportunity to protect wildlife and create good-paying jobs in the country. That’s why we worked with partners at Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council, and the BlueGreen Alliance to jointly host a boat tour of the Block Island Wind Farm. We took more than a hundred union labor leaders, media representatives and elected officials out to the turbines to show them what is possible when we work together, and to inspire them to take this message home to their union halls from New Jersey to Maine. Here is what some of the participants had to say about their experience:

A crowd of onlookers at America's first offshore wind turbines.

A crowd of onlookers at America’s first offshore wind turbines. Photo by NWF

Richard O’Kane – President, Building and Construction Trades Council of Nassau and Suffolk Counties, New York

“Two weeks ago I got my pin for 45 years working in construction. In that time, we’ve never really had a chance to create a new industry for construction. But that is exactly what offshore wind is – a brighter future for those of us in the construction trade. We’re not just talking about it anymore. The turbines are here. They are in the water. I saw them in person, and we – union labor – built them. Myself and everyone I talk to are excited about growing this opportunity.”

John Duffy – National Vice President, Utility Workers Union of America 

John Duffy (right) with Craig Pinkham, President, UWUA Local 369 (left)

John Duffy (right) with Craig Pinkham, President, UWUA Local 369 (left). Photo by John Duffy

“America has always been a leader in innovation and technology in the energy industry, but we’ve unfortunately let Europe take the lead when it comes to offshore wind. That’s why I was so inspired to see the wind farm up close and personally. This union-built and union-run energy source is helping us reclaim our role as world leaders. Offshore wind is now a reality, and an important part of a diverse mix of energy sources as we try to solve the joint challenges of creating reliable well-paying jobs and reducing environmental damage.”

Senator Jack Reed – Rhode Island                        

“The Block Island Wind Farm is history in the making and I hope it will help lead us toward a cleaner, greener, and more sustainable energy future. This is just the beginning and I am proud that Rhode Island is leading the way. I will continue supporting policies and projects like this that generate more good-paying jobs and clean, reliable energy.”

NWF representatives with Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island.

NWF staff and board member Steve Allinger with Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Photo by NWF

Roy Coulombe – International Association of Iron Workers Local 37, Rhode Island

“Local 37 Ironworkers are very proud to have been involved in erecting the first offshore wind farm in the United States off Block Island. We’re proud of the end result of the project, and the work of the signatory contractors and our members. On the tour, I got to look up and say, ‘Local 37 built that. We erected those turbines.’  Now I see a bright, prosperous future both for the environment and the working families of New England because of the potential of offshore wind.”

 Scott Duhamel – Secretary Treasurer, Rhode Island Building Trades Council, Rhode Island

“During the tour, I thought of the 300 local union tradesmen and women who helped build the turbines. It was a lengthy process, but it ended with an absolutely thrilling result — the first offshore wind turbines in the United States and the launching of a new industry. We also created a winning formula to repeat our success across the country: a willing developer, labor partners, environmental leaders, civic and elected officials, and union craftsmen all worked together to make this a reality. That truly resonates with me.”

John Shinn – District 4 Director, United Steel Workers, New York

Deepwater Wind's project employed more than 300 local union workers.

Deepwater Wind’s project employed more than 300 local union workers. Photo by NWF

“Manufacturing is the strength and backbone of our nation, and it is also the strength of the clean energy economy. It was impressive to see the Block Island wind project first-hand and to witness that, for the first time ever, there is ‘steel’ in the water for a U.S. offshore wind project; a technology that is so critical for the environmental sustainability of our country and world. Now we just have to make sure that the steel and other 8,000 parts that go into a wind turbine are made in America, by American working men and women to ensure economic sustainability.”

Michael Williams – Vice President, Strategic Development, BlueGreen Alliance

“The BlueGreen Alliance’s core mission is to find that intersection between good jobs and a clean environment. As I saw last week while touring the Block Island Wind Project, offshore wind embodies that intersection. There are 3,000 GW of potential offshore wind generation. It’s time we turned those potential renewable energy gigawatts into tens of thousands of construction, manufacturing and operation and maintenance jobs right here in America.”

Gerard Dhooge – Boston and New England Maritime Trades Council, AFL-CIO, Massachusetts

“We are greatly encouraged by the DeepWater offshore wind project and we look forward to being part of the continuing effort to develop the U.S. offshore wind energy industry.”

 Take ActionSupport offshore wind by calling on your Governor to back clean energy!

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