Block Island

Offshore wind power finally comes to the US

Photo credit: Deepwater Wind.
By Anders Lorenzen

Wind farms at sea, popularly referred to as offshore wind, is something that so far has been confined to European waters. But now construction begins in the US with their first ever offshore wind farm.

Rhode Island’s Deepwater Wind installation of five turbines started last month, and it will provide a combined capacity of 30 (megawatts). While still far in capacity compared to Europe’s wind farms, the company hopes this could be the first step in creating an offshore wind industry in the US that could rival that in Europe.

The offshore wind farm will be constructed at Block Island, a tourist destination 4.8 km off the coast. It will take more than a year to build, and will start producing electricity for the small island community by the end of next year.

The Danish island of Samsoe, where all electricity comes from either offshore or onshore wind turbines, provides an international example for sustainable living and deployment of renewable energy.

The CEO of Deepwater Wind, Jeffrey Grybowski, commenting on the project , says it could be the bridge to bigger US offshore wind projects: ‘’Our belief is once Block Island is up and running, it will bring offshore wind from theory to reality in the United States and open up opportunities to build larger projects’’

Europe has been delivering offshore wind since the 1990’s, with 2,500 wind turbines connected to the grid. But it has been more difficult to establish the industry in the US, despite onshore wind faring really well. In the US, offshore wind has been dogged by the famous Cape Wind project. It was long expected that this would be the first offshore wind farm in the US. Lawsuit after lawsuit has damaged the project – but remarkably it is still penciled in to happen at some point, with strong financial backing. Cape Wind is a highly ambitious scheme, with a total of 130 wind turbines being planned in the picturesque Nantucket Sound. It has been opposed on the basis of protecting the environment and wildlife.

And perhaps it is the sheer scale ,that has so far been its downfall. Grybowski thinks that Block Island is succeeding because it is a relatively small project – thus making financing easier.

But if the Block Island project proves successful, the door is open for expansion, as the company owns the lease for the surrounding area stretching 24km, and with room for 250 turbines.

// Senator for Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, has long been one of the most vocal voices for action on climate change in the US Senate. And unsurprisingly, as above tweet demonstrate the offshore wind project gets support from the Senator.

Related news:

US wind power sees record growth

UK gives the go ahead to the world largest offshore wind farm

Worlds longest wind turbine blades produced and transported in Denmark

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