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A New Energy Chapter
This Week in NWF History
Since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has worked to conserve the nation’s wildlife and wild places. As part of our 80th anniversary celebration, we are recognizing important moments in our history that continue to make an impact today.
For over fifty years, the Clean Air Act has been one of our nation’s most effective and beneficial public health and environmental laws. Enacted in 1963, the law has allowed us to hold polluters accountable and successfully protect the health of Americans from dozens of air pollutants. Cleaning up air pollution protects communities, wildlife, habitats, and our lakes and streams. But there is still much to do.
One of the ways to keep our air clean and mitigate climate change is by transitioning to renewable energy resources such as offshore wind power. Fossil fuel combustion produces energy, but it also produces toxic mercury emissions and climate-altering carbon pollution, posing serious threats to people and wildlife — including many icons of America’s hunting and fishing heritage. A booming international industry, offshore wind power remains a massive untapped clean energy opportunity for the United States.
The National Wildlife Federation works closely with developers, decision-makers, environmental organizations, and coastal communities to help ensure that responsibly developed offshore wind power will play a key role in America’s energy future. Last April, we were thrilled to celebrate the kick-off of construction of the nation’s first offshore wind power project in Rhode Island and to return in July for the pivotal “Steel in the Water” moment for this new American industry.
Watch a video of Block Island Wind Farm construction from Deepwater Wind.
The Ocean State will be the first to put offshore wind power on the map in the U.S. By the end of 2016, Rhode Island state waters will be home to five offshore wind turbines, three miles off the southeast coast of Block Island.
The Block Island Wind Farm has provided the U.S. with a much-needed model of how to get an offshore wind project done. The state of Rhode Island led an impressive multi-stakeholder ocean planning process, and Providence-based developer Deepwater Wind devoted years to this process, altering their plan significantly to reflect the feedback of local, state, and national leaders in the wildlife, fishing, labor, and tribal communities, among other stakeholders.
The five turbines will connect Block Island to the mainland for the first time, replace the dirty and expensive diesel generator currently fueling the island, cut local electric rates nearly in half, and put more than 300 Rhode Islanders to work throughout the construction process alone — all while employing the highest standards of wildlife protection.
Massachusetts is poised to launch America’s offshore wind industry to a new level, and NWF is at the forefront of a campaign to ensure 2016 is the year it is made possible. Areas that can power millions of MA homes fifteen miles off the state’s South Coast have been carefully designated by the federal government for offshore wind development, and experienced developers would like to get started.
But first, state leadership has to pass legislation that will create a market for the power these projects will produce – potentially enough clean, local energy to power every home in Massachusetts. As coal and nuclear power plants in the Commonwealth retire, a fierce debate over how to replace their energy is underway, and offshore wind power is the only in-state, pollution-free option available right when we need it in enough abundance to rise to the challenge. Stay tuned as this story plays out and hopefully charts the course for states to follow!
It is an incredibly fortunate coincidence that our largest East Coast energy market is also home to some of the greatest offshore wind power potential in the world. It’s time to harness that energy!
Just last month, a large area of federal waters 11 miles south of Long Island was designated for wind power development that could power hundreds of thousands of homes. Combined with a leased area 30 miles southeast of Montauk that could provide critically needed support at moments of peak energy demand, there are ample near-term opportunities for NY to build a meaningful offshore wind program.
State leadership has acknowledged the value that offshore wind offers, and New Yorkers continue to call on Governor Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, and the Long Island Power Authority to take the steps needed to finally make offshore wind power an Empire State reality. We need to keep the pressure on until they get it done!
New Jersey’s offshore wind power story keeps moving forward. Globally leading developers hold leases to areas in federal waters far offshore with a combined potential to generate power for close to 1.2 million homes.
As we see in every state trailblazing in this uncharted territory, launching an industry calls for all hands on deck. Bold leadership is needed at every level to bring this golden and urgently needed opportunity to fruition. In a time when climate change threatens so much of what we cherish, we must clear the way for the solutions that can rise to this most pressing challenge.
Offshore wind power is one of those solutions, and the National Wildlife Federation is proud to be part of the force driving it forward and ensuring it’s done right.