New U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Breaks Ground

On April 27, the U.S. saw yet another significant milestone for its so-far nonexistent offshore wind sector as Deepwater Wind broke ground on the Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island.

The company says that the five-turbine 30-MW wind farm will produce enough electricity to power all of the island’s homes and businesses when it comes online in 2016. The Alstom 6-MW Haliade 150 direct-drive offshore wind turbines (Figure 3) could replace diesel generators that the islanders currently rely on. It will also send power to the mainland through an undersea cable.

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3. Coming to America. Alstom’s Haliade 150-6MW offshore wind turbine, one of the largest ever installed in sea waters, is currently being tested off the coast of Ostend harbor at the Belwind site in Belgium, but it could soon be the first commercial wind turbine of its size in the U.S. if erected as part of Deepwater Wind’s Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island. This image shows a nacelle and blades that are ready for transport in Ostend, Belgium, in November 2013. Courtesy: Alstom

The project was originally conceived in 2009 when Deepwater Wind signed a contract with National Grid to provide 100% of its power to Block Island. Environmental groups the Sierra Club, Audubon, and the National Wildlife Foundation testified in favor of the project in rounds of hearings that followed the project’s proposal.

According to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA’s) 2014 annual market report, at least 11 offshore wind projects spanning 10 states are in various stages of development. The projects represent more than 2,500 MW of capacity with turbine sizes ranging from 3 MW to 6 MW.

One of those projects, however, the 486-MW Cape Wind project planned for offshore Massachusetts, suffered a crippling setback this January when two utilities terminated contracts to buy the project’s power because the company failed to meet a Dec. 31 deadline to obtain financing. This March, Cape Wind president Jim Gordon said the company is pushing on with the $2.5 billion project, seeking to restore the agreements with National Grid and Eversource Energy.

Meanwhile, the three projects selected in May 2014 by the Department of Energy to each receive up to $46.7 million over four years and accelerate their completion by 2017 are seemingly thriving. Those projects are Fishermen’s Energy’s 25-MW project offshore of Atlantic City, N.J.; Dominion Power’s 12-MW project offshore of Virginia Beach, Va.; and Principle Power’s 30-MW project offshore of Coos Bay, Ore.

Sonal Patel, associate editor