Dem Donor Is Building The Country’s First Offshore Wind Farm
Rhode Island Democrats were ecstatic to attend a ceremony Monday kicking off construction of the country’s first offshore wind farm.
They should be excited: the parent company of the wind farm has given millions to Democrats over the years.
The 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm is being built by Deepwater Wind, a company principally owned by the D.E. Shaw Group — which has given nearly $5 million to Democrats since 1992. This includes, at least $7,200 to Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, who was at the ceremony to commemorate the wind farm’s construction.
— Sheldon Whitehouse (@SenWhitehouse) April 27, 2015
The group, founded by David E. Shaw, has given $5.6 million to political campaigns since 1992, 88 percent of which have gone to Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Last year, the Shaw-owned Deepwater Wind got all the permits it needed to move forward with building offshore turbines, including permits to mitigate impacts on wildlife like whales and birds.
Deepwater Wind announced the project became fully financed in March 2015. The Block Island Wind Farm will become the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. and has become a key part of the Obama administration’s plan to double green energy production on federal lands by 2020.
Earlier this year, the Obama administration opened up 742,000 acres of offshore area for wind power development. Despite Obama’s efforts to promote offshore wind, only two of the 10 companies registered to bid for acreage off the New England coast showed up to offer bids.
Deepwater Wind won its offshore bid in 2013, buying 164,000 acres for $3.8 million — this comes out to about $23 per acre. Environmentalists have cheered the project, equating it to Apollo 11 that brought U.S. astronauts to the moon.
“The Block Island Wind Farm is our Apollo 11 moment,” Emily Norton, director of the Massachusetts Chapter of the Sierra Club, told ThinkProgress.
“I am going to remember this day, and tell my kids and grandkids that I was there when the first U.S. offshore wind farm was built — that when we had a choice between bequeathing them a future powered by polluting fossil fuels that lead to extreme storms, heat waves and drought, we chose to power their future from the wind, and the sun, and smart technologies,” Norton said.
For environmentalists, Block Island is a big win. For 14 years the Cape Wind project in Massachusetts was met with problems despite generous federal and state subsidies. Key contracts for the project were pulled in January 2015 and the project was heavily contested by locals.
The Energy Department gave Cape Wind a conditional $150 million loan guarantee last year. The project was supposed to get the money once it secured $2.6 billion in financing.
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