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Federal government approves offshore wind project

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(The Center Square) — The federal government has given the green light to a project to install up to 65 towering wind turbines off the coast of Rhode Island and Connecticut to help green the regional electricity grid.

The U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy announced on Tuesday that it has issued a “record of decision” in its environmental review of Revolution Wind, clearing the way for construction on the offshore wind project to begin.

The 700-megawatt project, which Eversource and Danish firm Ørsted Wind are developing, will be located about 15 nautical miles southeast of Point Judith, Rhode Island. The companies are looking at nearly 80 potential offshore sites for the 65 wind turbines and two offshore substations.

Officials say it will be Rhode Island and Connecticut’s first utility-scale offshore wind farm, generating enough power for more than 250,000 homes across both states and creating 1,200 local jobs. It’s expected to be online by 2025.

Federal regulators scaled back the project to include fewer wind turbines to reduce the impact on visibility and marine life. Revolution Wind has also pledged to create fishery mitigation funds to compensate for losses incurred by recreational and commercial fisheries in Rhode Island, Massachusetts and other states.

David Hardy, executive vice president and CEO of Americas at Ørsted, said the project will now move into the construction phase, “bringing good-paying jobs to hundreds of local union construction workers, keeping local ports busy with assembly and marshaling activities and further growing the local supply chain.”

“Revolution Wind will be key to Rhode Island and Connecticut’s clean energy future, and we’re grateful for the leadership from the Biden Administration, as well as our state partners and federal delegations, to grow the region’s offshore wind sector,” he said in a statement. “We’re excited to get to work building this important project.”

President Joe Biden is pursuing plans to add at least 30 gigawatts of offshore wind in the U.S. by 2030, arguing the plan will boost the nation’s clean energy industry and create good-paying construction jobs.

In the past year, the Biden administration has approved several major offshore wind projects, including the Vineyard Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts, the South Fork Wind project off Rhode Island and New York, and the Ocean Wind 1 project, which will be located off New Jersey.

“Together with industry, labor and partners from coast to coast, we are building an entirely new industry off the east and west and Gulf coasts,” Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said in a statement.

Still, critics have argued that the rush to construct towering wind turbines raises concerns about the potential impact on the fishing industry, whales and other marine life and tourism in coastal communities.

In New Jersey, Gov. Phil Murphy has been criticized for doling out generous tax breaks to Ørsted for its 100-turbine offshore wind project, amid concerns that the state’s rapid shift will drive up costs for energy consumers. The state’s Republicans have called for a moratorium on wind projects, citing concerns about the impact on whales.

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