At 6 a.m. on Monday, May 1, a switch was thrown in a powerhouse on Block Island, the diesel fuel generators that have powered that island for the last 50 years were turned off and power from a group of six offshore windmills surged into the system to provide the electricity for the residents, all 1,000 of them, that live on the island.
From the perspective of Montauk, just 20 miles away, someone might have seen the lights of the island flicker for a moment when the changeover occurred. Afterwards, the lights were as bright as they had been before.
Block Island became the first community in the country to be powered entirely by energy generated from a wind farm. Not a single gram of fossil fuel exhaust is being thrown up into the atmosphere to contribute to climate change.
And yes, you can see the steel windmills from the shore. Block Islanders and the 15,000 visitors who come to the island every day in-season can look out at them just three miles out to sea. They are proud of this.
“POWERED BY WIND!” was the headline in The Block Island Times this past week. Photos showed the view from land of the six windmills at dawn, the construction work, and the ribbon cutting.
“Second Warden Norris Pike said ‘the switch from diesel to offshore wind power is a monumental moment in our history, not only for Block Island, but the country as well. Between the wind farm and our purchase of the Block Island Power Company, we have set the stage for cutting edge technologies that will help us reduce our carbon footprint even more in the years to come.’”
The company that built this six-windmill project, Deepwater Wind, has now gotten its early approval to build a 15-windmill wind farm 30 miles from Montauk, well over the horizon and out of sight. If this comes to fruition, in five years time 50,000 homes on the South Fork of Long Island, just about every home here, will be powered by wind.
Last week, citing environmental issues, the East Hampton Town Trustees, along with a local fisherman’s group, announced their opposition to this project.