The United States lags far behind Europe in offshore energy production, but Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind wants to change that. The company is starting with its home state, installing America’s first offshore wind farm to power Block Island, a small island off the coast of Rhode Island. The company has completed the construction phase and is preparing to flip the switch on the wind farm before the end of the year.
The wind farm includes five 6-megawatt turbines that will generate more than enough power for Block Island residents, who consume 1MW during the off-season and 4MW during the summer vacation season. In fact, more than 90 percent of the energy from the wind farm will be delivered to customers on mainland Rhode Island.
As part of the project, Deepwater Wind has installed two underwater transmission cables — one to Block Island and one to Rhode Island proper — to send this electricity to its desired destinations. The company hopes to recoup its investment of $300 million through electricity sales.
Block Island appears to be an ideal location for a wind farm. Located 13 miles off the coast of mainland Rhode Island, the island community has some of the highest electricity rates in the U.S., with residents paying up to $0.58 per kilowatt hour, as compared to $0.14 for mainland residents. The island’s electricity is supplied by diesel, which is ferried via boat by the Block Island Power Company and used to power island-based generators.
This will change when the wind farm goes live later this year. Starting in October, Block Island Power will obtain all its power from the wind farm through an agreement with National Grid, which is partnering with Deepwater Wind on tes project. With the new wind energy in place, Deepwater Wind expects to lower the average island utility bill by 40 percent and reduce Block Island’s carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tons annually.
The Block Island Wind Farm may be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., but it won’t be the last. Deepwater Wind plans to expand its East Coast presence with the Garden State Offshore project in New Jersey and Deepwater One, which will install 200 turbines farther off the coast of Rhode Island and provide 1,000 megawatts of electricity to Long Island, New York.