Clean Power

Published on March 23rd, 2016 | by Joshua S Hill


GE Is Building America’s First Offshore Wind Farm

March 23rd, 2016 by  

GE announced earlier this month that it has completed the installation of the offshore platforms for America’s first offshore wind farm.

The road to offshore wind in the US has been long and bumpy, with very little to show for the efforts. The collapse of the Cape Wind project left many both within and without the industry wondering if it would ever get off the ground. However, in March of 2015, Deepwater Wind announced that it had fully financed the Block Island Wind Farm, set to be developed off the coast of Rhode Island.

The first foundation was installed in August of last year for one of the five turbines that will eventually end up totaling 30 MW. In fact, GE — which is providing the state-of-the-art, 6 MW, 170 meter turbines — hopes that upon completion, the wind farm will provide approximately 90% of Block Island’s electricity demand.


“In the last six years, the renewables industry has been able to lower the cost of electricity produced by onshore wind farms by approximately 60%, making wind mainstream and competitive with other forms of power generation,” said Jérôme Pécresse, CEO of GE Renewable Energy. “Our sights are now set on offshore wind with the goal to do the same. Deepwater’s Block Island project, being the first offshore farm in the US, is a critical stepping stone to tapping the vast offshore resources in the US.”

In conjunction with news of the completion of the project’s platform construction, GE also posted a new brief on its GE Reports website. The report takes a deep look into the project, and in particular the 6 MW Haliade turbines.


GE acquired the Haliade wind turbines in its purchase of Alstom last year. The first Haliade has already been produced, and left the factory in France for Denmark, where it will be installed on the Osterild site operated by the utility EDF EN. The same factory, located in Saint-Nazaire, France, will also make the five Haliades for the Block Island wind farm.


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  • J.H.

    I know that there has been a lot of engineering and studies on noise relating to blade design. But has there been any studies of resonant vibration from the towers beneath the surface of the water? And how far it may travel ? And is there any side effect to the marine life ?

    • Larmion

      Yes, there has been quite extensive research in that field.

      Sounds emitted during operation have been found to have no effect whatsoever. The stronger sounds produced during the construction of the wind turbines were more of a concern, but research research has found even that effect to be mild.

      There is a very recent PhD dissertation on the topic, of which you can find a brief summary here:

      • J.H.

        Pile driving is one thing but the low harmonic frequencies from tower vibrations are another. If the towers are floating they will render vibrations that has the potential to beach pods of whales. Being a wind guy, my tower at certain wind speeds sounds like a love sick whale.

        • Larmion

          Research into effects on cetaceans is limited because almost all major offshore projects are in the North Sea, where whales are rare.

          The one cetacean that is common in the area is the harbor porpoise. It has been found to suffer stress from piledriving (as a result, porpoises rarely go closer than 20km to a construction site).

          However, after construction is complete, the number of harbor porpoises in and around the offshore wind farm increases to a level considerably above what it was before.

          Any stress caused by noise and vibrations appears to be more than offset by the increased food abundance near offshore wind farms (the number of prey fish increases due to the monopiles acting as reefs for algae and bivalves and due to the complete absence of fishing activity).

          This strongly suggests that the vibration of offshore wind farms is not strong enough to seriously interfere with the echolocation of harbor porpoises. While I am not an expert on cetacean biology, I’d assume that this result can be extrapolated to other toothed whales – their anatomy is highly similar after all.

          • J.H.

            Thanks , I’ll sleep better to night

        • Bob_Wallace

          If we look at the sound produced by a wind turbine it’s pretty obvious that there’s not a lot of energy being released.

          I suspect your tower is a grid, not a monopod.


  • Brian

    Great news. Now that Obama made the right decision to ban oil drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, it’s time to ramp up offshore wind. England is way ahead of the world in offshore wind power, so we have a lot of catching up to do. The rich nimbi’s who blocked Cape Fear, have lost their absurd arguments, and hopefully it will be full speed ahead now, moving forward.

  • JamesWimberley

    The US offshore wind market is still too marginal to justify domestic production. I hope GE does not run into ptotectionist buy- American flak for sensibly sourcing the turbines in Europe, the centre of the world offshore wind industry.

    • Bob_Wallace

      Since GE owns the company I suspect they could shake it off. All they need to say is “Once installations increase in US waters we’ll probably start manufacturing in the US”.

      Leverage, baby….

      • Bristolboy

        Manufacturing will start in the US as soon as the market is big enough – basic economics will see to that.

      • Jens Stubbe

        The industrial framework for the Haliade project was never really established so to port it to USA is just month of diligent work ahead. Alstom planned to in-house the competences but started out sourcing it. France has never been great on wind power because the companies that entered wind power was more preoccupied with other sorts of power generation, which mainly means nuclear.

        GE also never did the pioneering but just bought the competencies as did Siemens.

        Mitsubishi wisely acknowledged they were unable to bridge the gap to commercial success and paid for a joint venture with Vestas.

        Despite the seemingly simple technology no company that I can think of has been able to establish themselves as competitive with the companies that originated out of the original idealistic concept of building and developing wind turbines. All Chinese wind companies are heavily dependent upon political goodwill and subsidies.

      • eveee

        You have become so trendy. 🙂

    • Adrian

      Bleagh – that’s what killed Maine’s offshore effort. Norway’s Statoil won the bid, but the governor reopened bidding so a local consortium could rebid. Statoil decided to withdraw their bid. The local consortium won by default, and now from the outside, the project appears to be nearly dead – probably undercapitalized.

      We have enough winter wind out in the Gulf of Maine’s deeper waters to heat all of New Englands buildings via heatpump, and likely a good chunk of the wider northeast as well. Estimates run in the 50GW range. That potentially displaces a lot of coal and gas.

      • Calamity_Jean

        “…the governor reopened bidding…”

        Governor LePage is a Republican,

        “…now…the project appears to be nearly dead….”

        so this was probably the desired result.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Actually the Haliade design is partly originated in Korea though the key guy is Danish. 90% of all offshore originates from Denmark. There is a chance that offshore will be able to compete with onshore within a reasonable timeframe. A key reason why there has been so much interest in offshore is that the North Sea singlehandedly could power all Europeans grid including EV’s.

    • Harry Johnson

      The central states have incredible room for growth and their 40% capacity factor at less than half the cost of offshore is where to concentrate right now. Being in the middle of a HVDC super grid is another benefit. We have the Great Plains and Europe has the North Sea which proves that location is all that ever matters.

      • eveee

        A new spin on the real estate market. 🙂 Location, location, location.

        • jeffhre

          Not so new. Finance, plan, lease, manage, construct, operations and maintenance, sell the product. Danes and US farmers have done it for hundreds of years. The only change is that the land use mix that the real estate supports includes selling electricity – and even that is now 133 years old.

  • Freddy D

    Does anyone know if this installation lives up to the “Deepwater” wind name? Deepwater / floating offshore wind is one to watch whether the economics can be made competitive. That would open up huge wind resources that currently can’t be accessed economically.

    • Larmion

      No, this is a conventional piled construction as is common in Europe. The US East Coast is comparable to the European coast, so need for (still) expensive and complicated floating solutions.

      • Freddy D

        Thanks – that’s what I thought. “Complicated and expensive floating solutions” – yes, exactly. It would be a huge step forward to reduce that cost to open up many new resources.

        • Lou Gage

          Larmion and Freddy, Are you saying that the off shore wind in the east coast will be built on the bottom. While a large area seems shallow in the USA the North Sea is much more so (shallow). Floating will have a HUGE place in any coastal wind solution. However, the NIMBY’s (in my neck of the woods) are already screaming about visual destruction of their ocean views. Lou Gage

          • Bob_Wallace

            The continental shelf off the Atlantic coast is pretty shallow.

            One company is working on the first floating wind farm off the Pacific coast where the bottom drops off very rapidly. They’re looking at an area just north of Morro Bay.

          • Lou Gage

            Bob, that is what it looks like on contour maps of the east coast. Waves here are fairly bad surfing because of the shallow slope from the shelf to the shore line. Gulf of Maine is a bit different. Still shallow and deep can use “Floating rigs” Still think the Gulf of Mexico has lots of finished oil rigs that can be safely converted in place

          • Brooks Bridges

            Possibly the fate of human civilization hinges on very rapid deployment of renewables but don’t, don’t you dare screw up my view.

  • ADW

    You wonder if Cape Wind could restart using fewer units and obtain the same amount of generation output. Could it lower overall project costs and bring National Grid back to the table? The fewer units could be moved further away from land lower the visual impact which was the primary issue for the Koch and the Kennedy’s.

    As well, the downturn in the deep water oil industry I expect the sub-sea foundations can be built at a better price than was being quoted 2 years ago.

    • Harry Johnson

      A near panic will erase the petty concerns of aesthetics and these favorable areas off the NE will eventually see hundreds of 10MW beasts.

      • eveee

        I can hardly wait.

        • Harry Johnson

          Billionaires will make out like bandits.

          • Lou Gage

            yet they will leave us with a cleaner environment yes? Lou Gage

          • Burnerjack

            As long as it pisses off the Kennedy’s, I’m good.

  • Kevin McKinney

    Great news–offshore in the US is long overdue. But perhaps the late start will have the (expected) consequence of lower average costs–the classic ‘late adopter’s edge’.

    On another front, “Wow!”

    It’s easy to read that “170-meter” figure and not really take it in, but that is freakin’ huge. (For those of us who grew up on English measurement, and for whom it’s still more ‘visceral’ than metric, it’s worth citing GE’s equivalent measure from the graphic: total height, 560 feet–AKA 2 Statues of Liberty.)

    I looked at the picture of the incomplete rotor assembly being transported by barge and literally said out loud, “Holy S***!” Luckily, alone at home at the time…

    Well, I suppose that’s what you need for 6 MW. I wonder what the capacity factor on these monsters, sited off Rhode Island, will be?

    • Ulenspiegel

      “But perhaps the late start will have the (expected) consequence of lower average costs–the classic ‘late adopter’s edge’.”

      Here I am less optimistic, it is still the first generation of offshore turbines for the involved companies, lots to learn by making mistakes.

      • Jens Stubbe

        The top boss was also heading up Vestas division for offshore, which before his time got stuck with gear problems but later on made a phenomenal comeback with the Vestas 164. I do not think the Haliade is particularly prone to gear problems because it is direct drive.

        • Ulenspiegel

          I should have made a better argument. 🙂

          Actually I do not think that the turbine per se is the real issue, it only contributes less than 40% to the costs, the other things make offshore expensive. And what I have read about German companies with far-offshore there is a lot of opportunities to screw up. 🙂

          • Jens Stubbe

            Even though the turbine is only a limited part of the cost of installation its is still very important for the production, there lifetime, the OPEX and the decommission cost. MHI-Vestas hope to launch much larger wind turbines and they will perhaps be based upon the Arimis gear technology that was originated in Britain and bought by Mitsubishi before they joined forces with Vestas to take on Siemens Wind power that dominates the offshore market. This is a hydraulic gear technology that opens for a lot of possible designs that can lower cost and weight as well as OPEX.

            As for the screw up risk it is huge because the industry is emerging and all the time scale up. From the first wind farm that used 400kW turbines to todays the size has twenty doubled over just 25 years.

      • Omega Centauri

        Well, this is really a small (30MW) pilot type project. So if a real buildout follows the cost of this first project will hardly matter to the average cost.
        Slow ramp ups, that leave plenty of time to iron out the bugs, and optimize the supply chain are the conservative way to do this.

      • Kevin McKinney

        I’m not thinking so much of this project per se, as of the overall US industry in comparison with those of the UK, say, or Denmark. The manufacturers involved may not be the most experienced in offshore installations, but one hopes that that won’t put them clear back at the beginning of the learning curve.

        And I also hope that there will be further developments, now that we have footings in the water. While it’s true that the midwest and Great Plains are in a pretty sweet spot for wind, it’s also true that geographical dispersal is desirable for wind, and that East Coast offshore resource is pretty darn good. We need to keep working on the tech to use it, IMO.

    • Jens Stubbe

      Beyond 10MW is already in the makings. The best capacity factors offshore in Denmark go from 50% upwards of 60% on wind farm basis. The capacity factor in the water is higher than in the summer and in European context power consumption is higher during wintertime where Hydro as well as solar contributes less.

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