NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I—Late last month, DeepWater Wind put “steel in the water” at what is expected to become the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
The five-turbine, 30 megawatt project will be located three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island and is expected to come online in 2016. It’s the first and smallest of three offshore projects that Deepwater Wind is planning along the U.S’s Atlantic coast.
“We know the world is watching closely what we do here, and we’re incredibly proud to be at the forefront of a new American cleantech industry launching right here in the Ocean State,” DeepWater CEO, Jeffrey Grybowski, said. “This moment has been years in the making – and it’s just the start of something very big.”
The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the U.S. has 4,200 gigawatts of developable offshore wind potential, compared to its estimate of 11,000 GW of onshore wind potential.
“Wind resources are classified on a scale of zero to seven based on their power density, and more than 66 per cent of offshore wind in the United States is in wind power class six or seven,” the U.S. Energy Information Administration, an energy think tank, noted. “In addition, offshore wind turbines are built to take advantage of the more consistent wind speeds present over the ocean, allowing higher utilization of electricity generation capacity when compared with similarly sized onshore wind turbines.”
Despite the lack of offshore wind projects in the U.S., offshore wind turbine technology already has a strong presence in Europe. As of 2014, Europe accounted for 90 per cent of the estimated 8.8 gigawatts of installed global offshore wind turbine capacity, the think tank said.
While American developers have proposed building 4.9 gigawatts of offshore capacity in nine different states, according to the EIA, persistent challenges and regulations have stalled projects on both coastlines.
Building and maintaining offshore wind technology is expensive compared with onshore wind projects because of transportation, seafloor anchoring and weather challenges. Nevertheless, the U.S.’s first offshore project could signal the beginning of a new chapter in wind development.