Offshore wind farm is a U.S. first

When the first U.S. offshore wind farm opens off the coast of Rhode Island this fall, it will be the first of many, in a trend that will eventually provide green energy to growing numbers of Americans.

Deepwater Wind‘s $300 million five-turbine wind farm off Block Island, Rhode Island, will power about 17,000 homes. More wind farms are on the way.

A growing trend

“State and federal policy, and the technology, are all coming together at the same time,” says Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. Climate change has sparked interest in offshore wind, she adds, noting she expects to see more wind farms under construction in about three to five years.

Suitable areas — frequently near population centers that lack the space to build on land —have been identified off seven states, and the bureau has awarded 11 commercial leases for sites in the Atlantic Ocean. Developers have requested leases in the Pacific for areas off California and Hawaii. And a lease sale is planned for 81,000 acres off New York for commercial wind energy this year.

Floating construction crane near structures rising from sea (© AP Images)
A construction crane swings over the foundation for a wind turbine near Block Island, Rhode Island. (© AP Images)

Several states have ambitious clean-energy goals that include offshore wind. California wants to generate 50 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2030. Vermont aims for 55 percent by next year and Hawaii has called for 100 percent renewable power by 2045. Massachusetts and New York also are ramping up their reliance on renewable energy sources.

According to Deepwater Wind, the Block Island project is on track for a fall 2016 launch. GE Renewable Energy and Denmark’s Fred. Olsen Windcarrier are partners with Deepwater Wind on the project, contributing dozens of experts and skilled workers to complete the job.