1st US offshore wind farm opens off Rhode Island's coast

The first of its kind in USA waters, it will likely be followed by other offshore wind farm projects in the Great Lakes and off the West Coast, according to the American Wind Energy Association, an industry trade group. The facility has a capacity of 30 MW and is expected to produce around 125,000 MWh of electricity annually. As of this week, Rhode Island's Block Island Wind Farm is officially online and producing carbon-free juice for the New England grid.

The five-turbine farm, owned by Deepwater Wind, an offshore wind farm company, can power 17,000 homes with average energy use. GE says they are some of the largest turbines in the world, with a diameter of 150 m (490 ft) and a height of 170 m (560 ft).

"As the Ocean State, we're motivated by our shared belief that we need to produce and consume cleaner, more sustainable energy and leave our kids a healthier planet - but also by this tremendous economic opportunity." said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo. The newspaper stated that the wind farm delivers energy to substation on Block Island through underwater cables, then to the mainland.

There are at least 10 additional offshore wind power projects in development and with the right policies, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that potential exists for 86 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2050, which is enough to power 31 million homes (by 2050).

Deepwater Wind is already moving forward with other offshore wind projects, including the 90 MW South Fork Wind Farm being developed off the coast of Montauk, New York, and the recently announced 120 MW Skipjack Wind Farm set to be developed off the coast of Maryland.

"This is a triumph for the American worker and US energy independence, and it's just the beginning", said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association. Meanwhile, the rapidly advancing onshore wind industry provided nearly 5 percent of USA electricity generation in 2015.

Deepwater Wind installed the wind farm over two years, with the five turbines installed in August. Electricity generated by the turbines is routed via submarine cables to the 1,000-strong community of Block Island, and back into Rhode Island's power grid.

Grybowski said the industry is focusing on markets where states have indicated a strong interest in developing an offshore resource, including NY and MA. According to WindEurope, the first six months of 2016 saw 114 commercial offshore wind turbines fully grid connected. Groups representing the fishing industry in four states sought to delay the auction.

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