The Block Island Wind Farm, located 22 miles off the coast of Rhode Island, went into full production in December, 2016. It is America's first offshore wind farm and will deliver electricity into the New England energy grid by a submarine transmission cable system, called sea2shore.
Maritime Executive reported that the new $451 million installation, which took two years to build, can provide power to 17,000 homes with its 30 megawatts. Block Island was chosen for its high electricity rates due to an infrastructure dependent upon oil. The five turbines are expected to decrease energy rates for island residents by 40% in addition to lowering air pollution in the area.
The cost can be broken down as follows: $225 million for equipment, construction and installation; $118 for design, legal work and permits; and $108 for the submarine cable. The developer was Deepwater Wind and it estimates that wind farms can be built for a cost similar to conventional power plants.
Technology drawn from offshore gas and oil drilling experience enabled Deepwater Wind to place the turbines far out to sea, where the wind is stronger and the equipment can be kept out of sight of land. Controversy surrounding the wind farm project included: obstructing the ocean view from shore, affecting the fishing industry, and locating in active shipping lanes.
The Huffington Post reports that the first offshore wind farm in the world was built in 1991 off the coast of Denmark. It operates to this day. There are currently 3,000 wind turbines off coastal Europe. Investments in wind energy total $20 billion annually and these projects employ 85,000 people.
The five wind turbines for the Block Island project were supplied by GE Renewable Energy and shipped 3,300 miles across the Atlantic from GE's factory in France. They were transported and installed by Fred. Olsen Windcarrier's jack-up installation vessel, Brave Tern. During four months of testing, the project's crew transfer vessel, Atlantic Pioneer, operated 24 hours a day.
Advantages to building the turbines offshore include being able to use larger, more cost effective turbines and eliminating the need to transport turbine components over land (they can be built at coastal sites and then transported by barge to the off-shore site).
Deepwater Wind is planning other offshore wind projects, including an eastern Long Island 90 megawatt installation off the coast of Montauk, NY. The 15 turbine installation will be located 30 miles out to sea and just beyond the horizon in an area known as the Deepwater ONE Wind Energy Area. This will be the first phase of wind installations in the Deepwater ONE area which is located halfway between Montauk and Martha's Vineyard, MA. The company indicates that there is a potential for more than 1,000 megawatts offshore in this 256 square mile site.
When completed, the 90 megawatt South Fork Wind Farm will generate energy sufficient to power 50,000 homes on Long Island's South Fork. Construction is expected to begin in 2019. The State of New York has agreed to the wind farm in order to meet its renewable energy goals while avoiding expensive new infrastructure projects.
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