The Block Island project, developed by energy company Deepwater Wind, has begun construction of its first large-scale offshore wind facility.

The landmark project will see the construction of a five-turbine, 30MW capacity wind farm in Rhode Island state waters. The turbines will rise 589ft above sea level, making them some of the tallest wind turbines in the world with the capability to withstand a ‘Category 3’ storm.

The project represents the first commercial offshore wind operation in the US, having achieved project funding of more than $290m in March 2015.

Sustainable beacon

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell attended the construction milestone, alongside Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo.  

Secretary Jewell said: “Deepwater Wind and Rhode Island officials have demonstrated what can be accomplished through a forward-looking vision and good working partnerships.

“Block Island Wind Farm will not only tap into the enormous power of the Atlantic’s coastal winds to provide reliable, affordable and clean energy to Rhode Islanders, but will also serve as a beacon for America’s sustainable energy future.”

Winds of change

The windfarm, which is due to be completed and connected to the grid in 2016, is expected to provide power to around 17,000 homes on Block Island and mainland Rhode Island. Power will be sent via a 25-mile transmission cable between the island and the mainland.

The project has taken several years to begin construction after legal challenges, but with the initial project underway, Deepwater Wind plans to move ahead with planning Deepwater ONE, a planned 1,000MW project near Long Island.

Abigail Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said the pioneering project would inform design and installation requirements for future projects: “This is an exciting development for Block Island and also demonstrates the way forward for wind energy in federal waters off America’s coasts,” said Hopper.

The US is a newcomer to the offshore wind energy market, with the UK topping the global market with more than 55% of Europe’s installed capacity. This is followed by Denmark with 16% of Europe’s offshore capacity, which has in recent months produced 140% of its electricity from renewable sources.

Presidential hopefuls

The news comes in the week Hillary Clinton announced she would build half a billion solar panels in her first term as US President if she is elected next year. Clinton said she aimed to increase the installed solar capacity in the US by 700%. “You don’t have to be a scientist to take on this urgent challenge that threatens us all. You just have to be willing to act,” said Clinton.

The milestone also comes as STV News today reported that Republican Presidential candidate and outspoken wind energy opponent Donald Trump has shares in clean energy and wind power companies.

The billionaire has previously clashed with the Scottish government over plans to build offshore wind farms in Scotland.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Trump probably spat out his morning coffee when he read the papers to discover that, despite his own views, he was investing in wind farms.

“However, those looking after his investments have clearly realised what Trump himself hasn’t – namely that that wind power not only works, but is a sound investment for the future. The sooner he realises this and stops trying to hold back Scotland’s clean energy ambitions the better.”

Matt Field

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