Rhode Island Fast Ferry has partnered with Deepwater Wind to build a new transport vessel for technicians working on the country’s first offshore wind energy project, located between Block Island and the Vineyard.

The boat line, which serves Block Island, Long Island, the Vineyard and Nantucket, plans to spend more than $4 million to build the vessel — the first of its kind in the U.S. — and to develop a training program for its crew. Construction of the vessel, by Blount Boats of Warren R.I., is expected to generate more than 70 jobs over the course of a year.

Atlantic Wind Transfers, a new subsidiary of the boat line, will provide crew and equipment support during the wind farm’s construction, which is expected to begin next spring. Support would eventually shift toward operations and maintenance for the 20-year life span of the project.

The agreement “is not only good for the State of Rhode Island, but it will also provide for future growth and enhance the capabilities of our company in the U.S. offshore energy sector,” ferry company president Charles A. Donadio Jr. said in a statement.

The agreement also foreshadows the kind of cooperation and infrastructure development that will be needed for a much larger wind project planned for the waters south of the Vineyard.

In January, the Island-owned energy cooperative Vineyard Power, along with developer Offshore MW, won a bid to lease 166,886 acres in the Massachusetts wind energy area, which begins about 12 nautical miles south of the Vineyard.

Vineyard Power president Richard Andre told the Gazette this week that construction won’t begin for at least three years, but he anticipates major infrastructure changes on the Island and significant year-round job creation as a result of the project.

“It’s great news what Deepwater did with Fast Ferry, and we envision doing the same thing, as far as keeping the local benefits on the Vineyard,” Mr. Andre said. He added that the project in Massachusetts will be 10 times larger than the Block Island project, producing about 300 megawatts of electricity, and could generate thousands of jobs in the region.

“We and the developers actually envisage owning vessels, hiring crews, hiring electricians, hiring steel workers,” he said. “There is going to be a major job impact.”

Vineyard Power’s share of the wind farm could be up to 10 per cent, or about 30 megawatts, making it about the same size as the Block Island project. A community benefits agreement between Vineyard Power and Offshore MW, also the first in the country, aims to keep jobs and infrastructure on the Island.

Offshore MW has completed a similarly-sized wind farm in Germany that Mr. Andre said created a total of about 4,500 jobs, with a peak of about 2,000 jobs during construction.

Looking ahead, Vineyard Power hopes to run a long-term operations and maintenance facility out of Vineyard Haven Harbor, which “would require a tremendous amount of investment,” including several new vessels and a new dock, Mr. Andre said.

After similar wind farm projects in Europe were completed, he added, the number of long-term jobs remained in the hundreds. He estimated that 50 operations and maintenance jobs on the Island might amount to about $4 million in annual wages.

“[To] say something like, it will have a major impact on the region, including the Vineyard, is kind of an understatement,” he said.

Deepwater Wind expects the Block Island project to generate over 200 jobs during construction, “dozens more in long-term maintenance and operation,” and more than $100 million in statewide economic activity, according to the Deepwater website.

The Danish company DONG Energy recently acquired the rights to an area about 55 miles south of the Vineyard, also in the Massachusetts wind energy area. Mr. Donadio said Atlantic Wind Transfers is well suited to serve all three of the nearby sites.

“The wind farm market is really starting to take the next step,” he told the Gazette, noting that other federal lease areas are opening up along the east coast. “We are going to have the latest in technology for a vessel to service this type of market.”

Vineyard Power and Offshore MW are now working to set up a project development team and conduct environmental studies. Mr. Andre said construction might begin anytime between 2018 and 2020.

The cooperative will discuss its plans further at its annual meeting in August.