Offshore Wind Forum to Talk Block Island

The Southern New England Offshore Wind Energy Science Forum is taking place on 11 and 12 December at the University of Rhode Island (URI) Graduate School of Oceanography (GSO) in Narragansett to discuss developments related to the Block Island offshore wind farm.

The forum represents the first time science and stakeholder communities, both from the public and private sectors, will have come together to exchange information on multiple issues since the first U.S. offshore wind farm began operating, and to present completed and ongoing research that is taking place at the wind farm and within the region in order to improve the management and development of offshore wind energy.

Research topics include the effects of the construction and operation of offshore wind farms on habitat, fish, marine mammals, avian species and people.

“Rhode Island led the country in developing management policies for offshore renewable energy, and it’s important that we take stock of how the facility is interacting with our coastal environment,” said Grover Fugate, Executive Director of the Rhode Island Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC).

“The major benefit of our work is that the Block Island project is an in-place laboratory for studying potential impacts at a much smaller scale, which provides insight into larger-scale projects, without the same impacts. This was a significant reason why the fishing industry supported the Block Island project.”

The event is being sponsored by CRMC, U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), URI GSO and the URI Coastal Resources Center (URI CRC), with financial support from Rhode Island Sea Grant and Deepwater Wind, the owner of the wind farm.

The wind farm project is regulated in part by state regulations created in 2011 through the public and participatory Rhode Island Ocean Special Area Management Plan (Ocean SAMP) process, a CRMC leadership effort supported by the URI CRC and Rhode Island Sea Grant.

“The Ocean SAMP is a national and international model for science and stakeholder engagement, and we are still seeing the positive impacts of the process,” said Jennifer McCann, Director of U.S. Coastal Programs at CRC and Extension Leader for Rhode Island Sea Grant.

“It is vital and important that the ongoing research is regularly shared and discussed amongst the scientists and the public.”

The Block Island wind farm has been delivering electricity to the mainland grid since December 2016.

All five GE Haliade 150-6MW turbines at the 30MW wind farm went online at the beginning of 2017.