11 May 2017

First US offshore wind farm powers island

The United States’ first offshore wind farm is now online and powering an island community off the coast of Rhode Island with renewable energy.

Block Island’s five turbine wind farm – the only one of its kind – has a total capacity of 30 megawatts (MW), more than enough power to supply the town’s 1,000 inhabitants with cheap and reliable power.

The wind farm came online on Monday 1 May, and signalled the end of the island’s dependence on its expensive and polluting generators which burn an estimated 1 million gallons (4.5 million litres) of diesel each year.

Jeffery Wright, Interim President of the Block Island Power Company, told the Block Island Times  that the town's electrical system was "successfully transferred" to the wind farm and National Grid's Sea2Shore submarine cable on 1 May at 5:30am.

The new wind farm makes the island’s energy completely independent of the mainland for the first time and will save Block Islanders between $25 and $30 per month on their electricity bills, with a starting cost of 24 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh).

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the U.S. has an estimated total offshore wind energy capacity of around 4,000 gigawatts (GW) – four times that of the current energy capacity of the U.S.

Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of the Block Island’s project developer Deepwater Wind, said: "We're confident that the example Block Island has set will inspire communities up and down the Eastern Seaboard to chart their own path toward a renewable future."

In fact, similar wind projects are already at varying stages of development along the coasts of Long Island, Massachusetts, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and Oregon.

The news follows the announcement that in the first quarter of 2017, the U.S. wind industry added 2,000 MW of new capacity – the best quarter since 2009.

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