Yesterday certainly was a day of firsts for the great state of Rhode Island, the absolute smallest state in the United States. Governor Gina Raimondo — yes, the first ever woman governor of Rhode Island in like almost 240 years — claimed the offshore wind energy leadership title for her state over the entire US, by officially breaking ground on Block Island, the nation’s very first offshore wind farm.
If you’re wondering how one “breaks ground” on an offshore wind farm, we were wondering the same thing. We got that phrase off the Sierra Club’s press release and we’re not going to parse words with that venerable institution. The real question is, how did lilliputian Rhode Island get first dibs on offshore wind energy in the US?
The Block Island Offshore Wind Farm
Block Island is a 5-turbine, 30-megawatt project of the company Deepwater Wind. It’s actually quite modest, as far as the global offshore wind energy market goes. Scotland, for example, has more than 4 gigawatts (4,000 megawatts) of offshore wind energy in the planning stage on top of several existing projects. An even better example is Denmark, which has already commissioned 1,268 megawatts with plenty more wind energy where that came from.
However, you have to start somewhere. The Block Island project has been in the works since at least 2009, but we only caught wind of it back in 2014, after it cleared several important hurdles.
According to information released by Deepwater last year, the company anticipates 200 local construction, turbine assembly, and cable installation jobs from the new wind farm, on top of dozens of permanent staff and consultants, including environmental assessment professionals such as oceanographers, marine scientists, and biologists.
We were just talking about gigantic, next-generation offshore wind turbines that eschew gearboxes in favor of permanent magnet generators, and as far as we know, that’s what the Block Island farm is getting. Last spring, Deepwater signed an agreement with France’s Alstom for five Haliade™ turbines, which the company claimed were “the largest turbine installed in offshore waters today.”
The new wind farm is actually just a warmup for a much larger, 1,000 megawatt offshore wind farm that Deepwater has planned for the area, so stay tuned for that.
How To Break Ground On An Offshore Wind Farm
The “groundbreaking” wasn’t quite as exciting as the new wind turbines, but it’s still a milestone for US offshore wind energy.
The Providence Journal reported yesterday that Governor Raimondo schlepped out to the Quonset Business Park along with Deepwater CEO Jeffrey Grybowski and other officials to view some of the wind farm extras — including ladders, platforms, and railings — under construction by the company Specialty Diving Services.
Here’s the money quote from Raimondo, cited by the paper:
Not only are we going to create jobs, but we’re going to rebrand ourselves as being more innovative and, over time, make Rhode Island a place that has lower energy costs, more diversified energy supply and greener energy.
So, What About The Rest Of The Atlantic Coast?
With its relatively shallow waters, the Atlantic coast of the US has offshore wind energy ripe for the picking, so you may be wondering what’s taking everybody else so long when a teeny tiny state better known as the birthplace of Peter Griffin is already putting shovels in the ground, so to speak.
What’s your guess?
Photo Credit (screenshot): Haliade™ offshore wind turbine courtesy of Alstom.
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