Monday, May 01, 2017

America's First Offshore Wind Energy Makes Landfall in Rhode Island

Five turbines are first of a proposed $50 billion regional build-out promising 11,000 jobs, but still a far cry from manufacturing capacity and work force in Europe.0

U.S. Offshore Wind Readies sor Takeoff (Credit: Bureau of Ocean Energy Management) Click to Enlarge.
America's first offshore wind farm will connect today to Block Island, a small, pork chop-shaped landmass off the tip of Long Island.  For Cliff McGinnes, a co-owner of the Block Island Power Company, the transition to wind energy can't come soon enough.

For decades, McGinnes's company ferried up to a million gallons of diesel fuel a year from the Rhode Island mainland to power this tiny resort community (pop. 1,000).  The fuel, a particularly costly and dirty energy source whose carbon dioxide emissions are second only to burning coal, lit up four antiquated generators on an island where power outages are common.

Last year, an oil leak at one generator burst into flames, destroying that dynamo and two others.  The fire also melted one of McGinnes's utility trucks and caused rolling blackouts at the height of the summer tourism season, when the Block Island population balloons past 20,000.  The company spent more than $100,000 to rent a pair of portable diesel generators. Customers, who already pay more for electricity than anyone in the country—50 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh) or more during peak summer months, nearly five times the national average—shouldered the costs.

From now on, Block Island's power will emanate from five wind turbines three miles off its southeast coast, each nearly twice the height of the Statue of Liberty.  They were built by a company called Deepwater Wind at a cost of roughly $300 million.  The energy they produce will not be cheap.  Yet at a starting cost of 24 cents per kWh, the new system will save Block Islanders $25 to $30 a month off their electricity bills.

Offshore wind power clearly works for Block Island,  a place where the economics of fossil fuels no longer makes sense.  Can it also be an important part of the energy mix  for the coastal U.S.?  Analysts say it can, though states will have to work with developers to bring the costs down.  

For now, fossil fuel-generated power still dominates in New England, where just 3 percent of electricity currently comes from wind and solar.  But the Block Island pilot project, capable of powering 17,000 homes, offers the promise of more to come.  The environmental group Oceana once dubbed the Eastern Seaboard the "Saudi Arabia of offshore wind" for its strong ocean breezes, shallow waters and close proximity to a densely populated region eager to decarbonize.  Massachusetts and New York have both committed to generating a portion of their power in coming years from offshore wind, and Deepwater Wind is slated to build a larger clone of the Rhode Island wind farm—which began supplying power to the mainland in December—to serve Long Island.

Read more at America's First Offshore Wind Energy Makes Landfall in Rhode Island

No comments:

Post a Comment