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    Rhode Island project may become nation’s first offshore wind farm

    While problems have mounted for Cape Wind’s 130-turbine installation, a smaller developer may steal its thunder.

    Deepwater Wind, a Providence-based renewable energy developer, said Monday that its Block Island wind farm project was fully financed. The $250 million, five-turbine project is on track to put “steel in the water” in Rhode Island state waters later this summer, the company said, and begin generating 30 megawatts of power in 2016.

    If the project continues, it could be a small upset for Rhode Island and Deepwater Wind, which also has plans for a 200-turbine wind farm in federal waters further south. Federal and state officials and environmental groups proudly touted Cape Wind as the nation’s “first offshore wind farm” on multipleoccasions as the project jumped through a series of regulatory hoops during the 2000s.

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    “Cape Wind will create local jobs, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy, and is poised to kick-start a new US industry by making Massachusetts the site of the country’s first offshore wind farm,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. in 2011.

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    But after Energy Management Inc., the developer behind Cape Wind, failed to meet a January 1 financing deadline, National Grid and Eversource Energy pulled out of agreements to buy the vast majority of the wind farm’s power output. Now, the project is fighting for its life, arguing that “relentless litigation” activated a clause in its purchase contracts with the electric utilities that would bring them back to the bargaining table.

    Block Island is small by comparison, but work has already begun. The blades for the turbines have been manufactured by Alstom, the Danish company making the turbines. A Louisiana-based company started making the turbines’ foundations in January, and onshore work has begun at the project’s Quonset Point staging area in Rhode Island, a spokeswoman said.

    Jack Newsham can be reached at jack.newsham@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TheNewsHam.