Deepwater Wind begins construction of Block Island wind farm

A rendering of Deepwater Wind turbines in the water off Block Island. (Deepwater Wind image)

Construction has begun off Rhode Island's coast on the nation's first offshore wind farm.

Deepwater Wind is building a five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, which it expects to power 17,000 homes as early as next year.

It began attaching the first of the steel foundations to the ocean floor on Sunday. The first one touching the seabed is known in the industry as the "first steel in the water."

Deepwater Wind took federal and state officials and other project supporters to the site by boat on Monday to celebrate the milestone. It rained heavily as the boat left the pier in North Kingstown.

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who went on the trip, called the project a beacon for America's "sustainable energy future."

"I think what they will learn is that this is possible," Jewell told NBC 10 News. "We can have a greener energy future. We can have viable projects like the deepwater wind project off of Block Island that will provide forever clean, renewable energy to Block Island so that it no longer has to burn dirty diesel and it actually can power industries on shore and that's a huge lesson."

Gov. Gina Raimondo shared similar sentiments. She is behind the project and hopes it will grow.

"We have to meet the future on this," she said. "Renewable energy is the way of the future. It's clean (and) it's good for the environment. We've got to bring down energy costs and we've got to put people to work."

The foundations will rise about 70 feet above the waterline, about three miles off southeastern Block Island.

Many worry about the environmental impact, but even the Sierra Club is supportive.

"We're not spilling oil. We're spilling air. We're spilling sun," said Sierra Club President, Aaron Mair. "So, this is much more environmentally sound than any form of carbon production."

Kenneth Lacoste of the Block Island Town Council said while the turbines might affect the views off the Block Island, he thinks it'll be worth it.

"It was a tough decision to make," Lacoste said. "Going forward, I think we made the right decision." {}

{}(NBC 10 News contributed to this report.)

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