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Wednesday, February 19, 2014

VIDEO: Green Jobs in Rhode Island

Sun and wind and jobs
By Will Collette

Although the only steady and bountiful source of “alternative energy” in Charlestown is hot air from the Charlestown Citizens Alliance (CCA Party), there are lots of hopeful signs for growth in green energy businesses and jobs in Rhode Island
Environment Rhode Island just issued a rousing congratulatory statement over the 62% growth in solar energy jobs in Rhode Island just in the past year. We went from 210 jobs to 340.

“The sun is an unlimited energy source that could provide all of our energy without the air and water pollution associated with coal, oil, and gas,” said Channing Jones, Campaign Director with Environment Rhode Island. “This report shows that the solar industry is putting people to work in Rhode Island, and that fostering the industry will be key to bringing even more good green jobs to the Ocean State.”

Even though adding 130 jobs is terrific, our state is actually losing ground, unfortunately, when compared to states like Massachusetts and Connecticut who have made more significant and concrete commitments to building a green economy. Rhode Island dropped in the national rankings for solar power employment from 21st place to 26th place in 2013.

The rankings and data come from the National Solar Jobs Census compiled by The Solar Foundation (TSF).

Environment Rhode Island blames Rhode Island’s poor public policy for the state’s relative poor performance. “The sky’s the limit on solar,” said Environment Rhode Island’s Channing Jones. “But right now, only a small fraction our energy comes from solar. To take it to the next level, we need to rally around a bigger vision on solar while defending and improving the programs that work today.”

Southern Rhode Island will probably get another boost in green energy jobs as Deepwater Wind begins construction of its 30 megawatt pilot wind farm in the waters off Block Island. They’ve just signed a deal with the France-based multi-national Alstrom for the turbines which will be assembled at Quonset Point.

Deepwater says that this pilot project alone will create 200 construction and assembly jobs, 10 permanent jobs and dozens of consultant contracts. Plus, they estimate the pilot project will generate about $100 million in Rhode Island business activity.

A successful pilot project could lead to an even more massive wind farm in the area. Deepwater won the bid for a federal lease to site a larger wind array in the waters between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard.

I know that wind energy has become a taboo subject in Charlestown due to the hyperbolic reaction of our local NIMBYs to the unpopular and now defunct Whalerock wind farm proposal.

You would think we faced a proposal to generate energy by incinerating puppies, given the reaction of our town leaders to wind power in particular and alternative energy in general.

But Charlestown needs to grow up and deal with the near certainty that our country’s reliance on using fossil fuels for energy will cost our town a lot of coastal acreage over the next generation or two. That’s a very bad problem for us that makes it all the more important that Charlestown be part of the solution.

Unless the CCA Party has a plan to actually harness all their hot air as an energy source for something else other than their re-election, our controlling political leaders need to adopt positive, aggressive green energies policies for Charlestown. Otherwise, CCA’s core constituents all along Charlestown’s beach front will have to answer the question posed in Bill Cosby’s classic Noah’s Ark skit, “how long can you tread water?”