NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (AP) - State officials said Monday that the beginning of construction of what could be the nation's first offshore wind farm will bring hundreds of jobs to Rhode Island and position the state as a leader for a growing industry.
Deepwater Wind plans to start construction off Block Island this summer, so the five-turbine wind farm can begin operating in the fall of 2016.
Gov. Gina Raimondo and the state's congressional delegation met with Deepwater Wind officials Monday at Specialty Diving Services, Inc., in North Kingstown. Welders are working on foundation components for the wind farm.
"This is an opportunity to create jobs in a new industry, in a growth industry," Raimondo said. "And it's an opportunity for us, the state of Rhode Island, to stake out real leadership in this growing industry."
Deepwater Wind said the project will create about 300 construction jobs in Rhode Island and power about 17,000 homes. It's one of several offshore wind farm projects in the works along the Eastern seaboard.
"This is just the start of something much bigger," CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said.
The company also plans to build a wind farm of at least 200 turbines between Block Island and Martha's Vineyard. Cape Wind is planning for a 130-turbine wind farm off the coast of Cape Cod, though the future of that project is in doubt.
U.S. Sen. Jack Reed said the start of construction for the Block Island project is "a great first" for the nation, and for the future of Rhode Island.
"We need to lead rather than follow," he said. "Today Rhode Island is leading the way."
Twenty five people at Specialty Diving Services are working on the contract, said company President Nicholas Tanionos. Tanionos said the total workforce fluctuates between 40 and 60 people, on average.
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