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Green Jobs in Rhode Island Created in Wind Power Deal

Posted on April 7, 2010

The state of Rhode Island has embarked on massive study to develop off-shore wind farms, a move that will spur on the creation of many green jobs in Rhode Island.

New York Times reports that Rhode Island has forged ahead with its own plans to convert some of the state’s power source to wind. They aim to outpace and outsource Massachusetts, their neighbor to the north, which in turn has created a wind-power rivalry between the two states.

According to the Mother Nature Network, Rhode Island has invested more than $8 million of state’s money on research on birds, fish, habitats, and fisherman’s requirements, as well as areas important to Indian tribes. This is a marked departure from Massachusetts’s plan, which has put the state’s wind program in the hands of a private investor called Cape Wind.

According to the New York Times, instead of having a private developer dominate the research on potential sites, as Massachusetts has, Rhode Island embarked on a three-year scientific study, to be completed in August, of all waters within 30 miles of its coast. It has spent more than $8 million on research into bird migration patterns, wildlife habitats, fish distribution, fishermen’s needs and areas that might be of cultural importance to Indian tribes.

Its goal has been to head off the hurdles that have been in the way of the Massachusetts project, which has pitted coastal Indian tribes, business interest and homeowners against the developer, Cape Wind, and proponents of alternative energy. Frustrated by the failure of the two sides to broker an agreement, the Obama administration’s interior secretary, Ken Salazar, has promised to determine the fate of the project on his own this month.

Rhode Island has not secured permits, but it has trumpeted what Cape Wind so far lacks: a “power purchase” agreement with a utility company to buy what a farm generates. Yet on Wednesday, the state’s utility commission rejected that pact, which involved the proposed farm off Block Island, as too costly.

So for now, Cape Wind is poised to be first, said Matt Kaplan, a wind analyst at Emerging Energy Research, a firm that tracks emerging energy markets.

Rhode Island is not deterred.  The NY Time reports that a wind farm proposed in Rhode Island Sound could generate 1.3 million megawatt hours of energy a year, light up 125,000 homes and create more than 600 jobs. Meanwhile, other states have joined the search. Experts note that Delaware, Maine, New Jersey, New York and Virginia have all joined the search for clean, wind power. 
Nonetheless, the competition between Massachusetts and Rhode Island remains heated. Scott McWilliams is a University of Rhode Island ecologist who has studied the migration patterns of birds for the project. As he told the NY Times, “There’s definitely a rivalry in getting something in the ground first.”


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