Gulf of Mexico
NARRAGANSETT, RHODE ISLAND — Last month some 50 south Louisianans gathered in this small, New England port town, preparing for a breezy day trip through the Atlantic waters. The mood was light and there was an air of excitement — with some jokes about the “chilly” 70-degree weather compared to the triple digits back home as they ferried toward the Block Island Wind Farm. This wasn’t just a joyride, however. It was a chance to show off America’s first commercial offshore wind farm, largely built and assembled by several Louisiana companies. “We wanted to go to Rhode Island to allow people to see, touch and feel how Louisiana could create jobs building wind farms for the nation,” says Michael Hecht, president and CEO of the New Orleans economic development agency GNO, Inc.

LA - Mega Whatt!? What a Rhode Island wind farm can teach us about New Orleans' energy future

NARRAGANSETT, RHODE ISLAND — Last month some 50 south Louisianans gathered in this small, New England port town, preparing for a breezy day trip through the Atlantic waters. The mood was light and there was an air of excitement — with some jokes about the “chilly” 70-degree weather compared to the triple digits back home as they ferried toward the Block Island Wind Farm.

This wasn’t just a joyride, however. It was a chance to show off America’s first commercial offshore wind farm, largely built and assembled by several Louisiana companies.

“We wanted to go to Rhode Island to allow people to see, touch and feel how Louisiana could create jobs building wind farms for the nation,” says Michael Hecht, president and CEO of the New Orleans economic development agency GNO, Inc.

“When we were informed that the wind farm in Block Island was largely engineered, assembled, constructed and serviced by Louisiana companies, it was an aha moment.”

Hecht also organized the trip to build enthusiasm and connect more industry leaders working toward getting offshore wind farms into the Gulf of Mexico.

As a growing number of academics, industry leaders and policymakers have been pushing to get these underway, Hecht views it as a brilliant opportunity. It’s a natural fit for Louisiana’s workforce, which is already primed for offshore activity.

“There is economic opportunity for Louisiana to become the supply chain for offshore wind in the entire nation,” Hecht says. “What’s exciting about that is that instead of looking for gold, we’re selling the shovels to the gold miners.”

He and other local experts are particularly enthused about the process, because it’s a way to mitigate climate change while improving the state’s economy.

“When we see an opportunity where industry, government and environmental organizations all agree on an opportunity, that’s something we should pursue,” Hecht says.

Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, says she also is pleased with the widespread support the notion of offshore wind is receiving locally.

“This is one of the first times I’ve seen leaders on either side of the aisle leaning into real solutions, so that’s particularly exciting to see,” she says.

In 2006, Rhode Island’s then-Gov. Donald Carcieri first introduced the concept of harnessing the state’s coastal winds to generate clean, renewable energy.

He established the RIWINDS program and announced a goal to get the state to generate 15% of its electrical supply from wind power.

“[Carcieri] was like, ‘I want offshore wind energy for Rhode Island. I want it for climate change, but I also want it for economic development,” says Jennifer McCann, director of the U.S. Coastal Programs at the University of Rhode Island’s Bay Campus in Narragansett.

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