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Local leadership by Sea Grant leads to America’s first offshore wind farm

America’s first offshore wind farm will begin producing electricity in November. Sea Grant’s local leadership to guide the planning and community engagement process was vital to the project’s success.

Rhode Island Sea Grant brought stakeholders, experts, and community members together with developers and used the Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (SAMP)* as a tool to guide the process.

Jennifer McCann is the extension director for Rhode Island Sea Grant and coordinated the community engagement and planning processes. “With leadership from the state’s coastal program and in partnership with many University of Rhode Island experts, the Ocean SAMP was able to include physical geologists, oceanographers, avian experts, all participating, sitting at the table, thinking about this ecosystem and ensuring that the policies that were created for the Ocean SAMP were based on sound science and the input of the people,” commented McCann. “Fishermen, residents, environmentalists all not only voiced concerns but became part of the planning process.”

Block Island Wind Farm was built by Deepwater Wind of Providence at a cost of $300 million and is located 3 miles off the coast of Rhode Island. The five turbines will provide electricity for 17,000 homes and has already created 300 local jobs. The newly generated power will eliminate Block Island’s reliance on diesel generators and send additional power to the national grid via an underwater cable. A larger 200 wind turbine project is currently in the planning stages in Federal waters in the Ocean SAMP study area and the first 15 turbines will constructed in 2019.

*The Rhode Island Ocean SAMP is the first formally adopted ocean spatial plan for both federal and state waters in the nation.

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