North America’s first offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind Farm, just started operations late last month and expects to be working at full capacity by Thanksgiving. At that stage, the farm will generate enough electricity to power over 4% of all homes in Rhode Island — some 17,000 homes.
Block Island is an ideal location for such an endeavor. The five wind turbines of the farm, towering 589 feet above the ocean, will be providing power to all of the island’s 1,000 year-round residents.
What is a very exciting event for the American energy landscape is commonplace in Europe, where offshore wind energy is a booming industry. Indeed, wind farms represent a very sustainable energy generating technique. They generate between 17 and 39 times as much power as they consume, compared to 16 times for nuclear plants and 11 for coal plants.
But after 15 years of fighting, it still represents a significant victory.
“This has taken a lot of perseverance,” said Tom Kiernan, chief executive of the trade group American Wind Energy Association. “It’s been a long road to get here.”
Originally, Cape Wind, off the coast of Massachusetts, was supposed to be the first wind farm in the country. The project was proposed in 2001 and would have boasted 130 turbines. Although Cape Wind never took off, its obstacles and failures helped Deepwater Wind, the developer behind Block Island’s farm, to plan better.
Cape Wind started out big, with blueprints for 468 megawatts of power, whereas Deepwater started at 30 megawatts.
Deepwater faces less opposition than did Cape Wind and had an added advantage in that Jeff Grybowski, the CEO, was the previous chief of staff to the former Governor of Rhode Island, Donald Carcieri.
Deepwater still faced its share of doubts and opposition. Fishermen, in particular, were worried about the effects the project might have on their industry.