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Groton's Project Oceanology receives $950,000 from offshore wind partners

Groton — Offshore wind partners Ørsted and Eversource continued to make good on promises of local partnerships Thursday, with an award of $950,000 to Groton-based Project Oceanology.

The money is aimed at enhancing and expanding the marine science nonprofit’s STEM-based programming for kindergarten through 12th grade, with a focus on climate change, sustainability, energy generation and offshore wind.

Thursday’s announcement was made at Project Oceanology’s waterfront headquarters at the University of Connecticut’s Avery Point campus, with one of its two research vessels within view of the gathering of local and state officials.

Project Oceanology Executive Director Jim McCauley said the focus will be on serving economically disadvantaged and underserved communities, something the organization already does by targeting Alliance Districts — low-performing, high-needs schools — such as New London, Groton and Norwich for its programs.

The funds will be distributed over four years starting this fall and are to be initially used to develop and design programs at nine southeastern Connecticut schools: three elementary, three middle and three high schools. More schools, which have not yet been identified, will be added each year for a total of 18.

Project Oceanology is expected to additionally provide teachers with professional development sessions to help develop fundraising capabilities and help sustain the programs for the long term.

“Our commitment to Revolution Wind is we’re going to build over four years and reach out to the Alliance school districts and try to recruit those schools and teachers to bring their classes to the programs,” he said. “Over the four years we’re going to reach thousands of students in Southeastern Connecticut.”

Revolution Wind is the offshore wind project planned for construction off the coast of Rhode Island that will provide 304 megawatts to Connecticut and 400 Megawatts to Rhode Island. State Pier in New London will be used for staging and preassembly of wind turbines for the project.

David Ortiz, Ørsted’s head of market affairs for New England, said the $235.5 million State Pier modernization project is projected to create 460 local construction jobs while providing a boost to the local economy. He said there will be more than 100 more wind-related jobs for longshoremen, preassembly technicians, crane operators, electricians, welders and quality inspectors.

“All of this activity together is going to really benefit southeastern Connecticut,” he said.

Ørsted and Eversource already have announced partnerships with Groton-based ThayerMahan, Waterford-based Sea Services North America and last week announced a $1.25 million grant to Mystic Aquarium to support internships, youth programs, animal rescue work and an ocean wind energy exhibit.

“As we continue our work to grow the offshore wind industry in Connecticut, we are eager to work closely with local communities and partners to support educational and workforce development initiatives,” Michael Ausere, vice president of business development at Eversource Energy, said in a statement. “Project Oceanology’s collaborative, experiential learning approach was a perfect fit for us, and we look forward to expanding access to this unique program for local students.”

State Sen. Heather Somers said she was pleased Ørsted and Eversource followed through on promises to be good community partners and recalled a visit from a representative from Ørsted predecessor Deepwater Wind in 2018.

“We explained to him all the great things Project O does and is able to provide, especially for children who have never experienced the water, who don’t know anything about marine life. They have an opportunity through their school systems to visit and get a taste of it,” she said.

For more information on Project Oceanology, visit www.oceanology.org.

g.smith@theday.com

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