by Tina Casey.
When it comes to tapping into America’s vast offshore wind power potential along the East Coast, the notorious Cape Wind project has been hogging the spotlight, but creeping up right on its heels — and maybe even passing it in the home stretch — is the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island, which apparently will sport the world’s largest offshore wind turbines installed to date.
The Block Island Wind Farm is a 30 megawatt pilot project, but if all goes according to plan it will be the first step in the 1,000 MW, utility-sized Deepwater Wind Energy Center offshore development, which will hook into a wind power transmission grid linking Rhode Island with other southeastern New England states and New York State, including Long Island.
For those of you keeping score at home, Cape Wind will *only* be 468 MW when completed.
The Rhode Island Block Island Wind Farm And Green Jobs
The Block Island Wind Farm, though a pilot project, is no small potatoes. When completed in 2016, its five turbines will generate about 125,000 MWh (megawatt hours) of electricity annually. That’s enough to power about 17,000 typical homes.
The developer, Deepwater Wind, notes that since Block Island will become one of the first offshore wind farms on the East Coast, the pilot project will draw talent (and turbines — more on that later) from around the US and overseas. However, the idea is to recruit and train local talent as offshore wind farm development scales up.
Here’s a juicy green jobs tidbits from Deepwater: The company expects to generate more than $100 million in economic activity in Rhode Island from the Block Island Wind Farm alone.
That includes 200 local construction, turbine assembly, and cable installation jobs. The company also has ten full time workers on top of the “dozens of” high value consultants in wind power fields including electrical, civil and mechanical engineers, and surveyors, as well oceanographers, marine scientists, fishermen, and biologists whose skills come into play for environmental assessments and site planning.
World’s Largest (Installed) Offshore Wind Turbines
The Block Island project just passed a major milestone yesterday, when it signed an agreement with the French multinational company Alstom for delivery of five of its 150-6 MW Haliade™ turbines (150 meters is the rotor diameter), which the company bills as “the largest turbine installed in offshore waters today.”
Like other next-generation turbines, the Haliade eschews a conventional gearbox in favor of a permanent magnet generator, which translates into higher efficiency and improved lifespan.
About That Cape Wind Project…
As of this writing, Deepwater expects Block Island to beat Cape Wind in the race to plant the first commercial wind farm turbines on the East Coast, but it’s not for Cape Wind’s lack of trying. The project was obstructed early on by local organizations. That includes a heavy lift from certain wealthy Cape Cod residents and — no surprise here — the Koch brother that you usually don’t hear too much about, Bill Koch.
However, Cape Wind has been sailing along of late. In March 2013 it announced an important financing milestone, and in April 2013 the Energy Department approved its construction plan.
An important legal hurdle was also cleared in January 2014, when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit upheld an FAA decision approving the project.
To keep up with all the offshore wind industry news from CleanTechnica, subscribe to our Wind Power newsletter.
About the Author
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.