September 21, 2018
Until two years ago, Block Island, R.I., drew electric power from five noisy, polluting diesel generators that caused occasional brownouts across the resort community. But since December 2016, Block Island residents have breathed easier, thanks to the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The story of the five-turbine, 30 megawatt installation is told in the new documentary film Reinventing Power, which traces the meteoric rise of renewable energy across the U.S. The screening, cosponsored by Quincy Climate Action Network, the Massachusetts Sierra Club, and the Thomas Crane Public Library, will take place at the library, 40 Washington Street, Quincy, on Tuesday, October 2 at 7 p.m. Admission is free, and all are welcome.
According to the film, plans for the wind farm off Block Island raised fears among locals that tourism would plummet and fishing would suffer, but the fears have proved groundless. In fact, local boat owners have been making a bundle taking tourists out to see the turbines up close, while fishing guides have found that the bases of the turbines act as artificial reefs, attracting schools of fish. What’s more, installing the turbines provided jobs for more than 300 workers, a number that will be dwarfed by the workforce required to install and maintain the wind farms that will go in off the coast of Massachusetts and Rhode Island in the next few years, says David Reich, QCAN’s board chair. Already, he says, more than 100,000 Americans have good-paying, secure jobs working in the wind power industry, while the number employed in solar, wind, and other renewable energy businesses has topped 800,000 and is growing apace.
In addition to Block Island, Reinventing Power visits other places across the country where wind and solar power are changing lives. It tells the stories of a laid-off coal miner from Illinois who found safer, cleaner work installing rooftop solar panels, North Carolina farmers who have stabilized their income stream by hosting wind turbines on their land, and a Michigan county that avoided impending budget cuts thanks to taxes paid by a new land-based wind farm.
“The film demonstrates that wind and solar are not only big winners for the environment and public health,” says Reich, “but they also give a big boost to the economic health of families and communities.”
Take the arrival of BYD, a big manufacturer of the energy storage systems that are used in conjunction with renewables, in Lancaster, California. According to the film, jobs provided by BYD drove unemployment in the southern California city from 24 percent down to virtually zero. As Lancaster’s mayor says in the film, “It doesn’t take a genius to realize that green energy can bring back American industry in ways we haven’t dreamed of yet because it requires rebuilding everything…. What does that mean? It means jobs. It means prosperity.”
After the film, Deb Pasternak, interim director of the Massachusetts Sierra Club, will lead a question-and-answer session. Pasternak will speak from experience, having served as vice president of sales and operations at a major wind turbine manufacturer.