Members of the Newsday editorial board took a boat trip to visit the Block Island Wind Farm. The project offers a glimpse at the future of wind power in the U.S. — and for Long Island in particular. Already, there are two federal leases for offshore wind farms off the coast of Long Island and the state just recommended more than 1 million acres for wind power arrays south and east of Jones Beach.
The first deepwater wind farm in the U.S.
Three miles off the coast of Block Island, five 550-foot turbines are making history. Built by Deepwater Wind, the turbines are the nation's first foray into offshore wind electricty generation. The U.S. Department of Energy says the nation’s “technical” offshore wind capacity is as much as 2,000 gigawatts. All U.S. fossil fuel plants put together produce about half that.
A reliable (and renewable) source of energy
The turbines off Block Island produce 6 megawatts each. Combined, the 30-megawatt wind farm produces enough electricity to power Block Island year-round — the Island's diesel generators have been decommissioned. Much of the year, excess electricity from the wind farm is sent back to the mainland through an underwater cable.
The turbine blades are each 75-meters long — that's more than 240 feet. At top speed, the blades can spin more than 200 miles per hour. The direction and angle of the blades can be controlled remotely to maximze the efficiency of the turbine.
Built to last
The turbines are built in water that is almost 300 feet deep. The base of the turbines sit on a platform that reaches 60 feet above sea level, a federal requirment to withstand a 1,000 year storm surge. The various parts of the Block Island turbines were fabricated in France, Denmark and Louisiana with some assembly in Rhode Island.
Long Island is next
The same company that built the Block Island Wind Farm has a federal lease to 256 square miles of ocean another 20 miles to the southeast. That's so far offshore that the turbines won't be visible from land. Deepwater Wind also has a contract from the Long Island Power Authority to deliver 90 megawatts of power to the East End of Long Island. The company expects to begin construction in 2021 and be fully operational by the end of 2022, according to vice president of development Clint Plummer. Ultimately, the new parcel could produce as much as 2,000 megawatts.