First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Nearing Operation

It’s only 30 MW, but it’s a start.

The Block Island Wind Farm, the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., completed installation of its five wind turbines in the waters off Rhode Island on Aug. 18 (Figure), setting the stage for full operations in a few weeks, owner Deepwater Wind said.


offshore wind
Construction at the Block Island Wind Farm, the first U.S. offshore wind facility, completed on Aug. 18. Courtesy: Deepwater Wind


The 6-MW Alstom/GE Haliade 150 direct-drive turbines will power communities on Block Island as well as the mainland via a 20-mile undersea cable. The $300 million project has a power purchase agreement (PPA) with utility National Grid and will help substantially offset the use of expensive imported diesel fuel on the island. The undersea cable will also end the island’s existence as an isolated microgrid.

Construction of the turbine foundations took place from July through November last year. The project’s second round of construction began in late June, with turbine assembly beginning in late July and completing last week. Testing and commissioning of the project has begun and is expected to take several weeks.

Offshore wind generation in the U.S. has lagged far behind Europe, where projects into the hundreds of megawatts have been in operation for a decade or more. Despite repeated efforts at the state and federal level to support development, U.S. offshore wind projects have mostly sputtered.

The proposed 468-MW Cape Wind project in Massachusetts faced substantial opposition and struggled for years to close financing before appearing to collapse last year when its PPAs ran out. Cape Wind still has a chance of getting built, however, now that Massachusetts has enacted an offshore wind mandate for the state’s utilities—its developers hope to secure new PPAs under this scheme.

Meanwhile, Deepwater Wind is moving forward on a second, potentially much larger project off Long Island, N.Y. The first stage of the Deepwater ONE wind farm would comprise 15 turbines with a 90-MW total capacity and supply the east end of Long Island with electricity. The entire project could ultimately consist of more than 200 turbines totaling more than 1 GW in capacity, stretching between Long Island and Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the company says.

—Thomas W. Overton, JD is a POWER associate editor (@thomas_overton, @POWERmagazine).

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