Wind and farm, two innocuous words that, when put together, can evoke myriad reactions. From the supportive to the scornful, the views of the general population about wind farms and their future place on our landscape are mixed. Whatever opinion one may have, a recent development off a tiny island is worth noting.
Block Island, located off the coast of Rhode Island, is known to many in New England as a tourist destination. Now, the island’s waters are home to the first offshore wind farm in the United States. Developed by Deepwater Wind, the turbines have been installed and are slated to begin operations in sometime in December.
The heart of the project is the GE (formerly Alstom) Haliade 150-6MW Offshore Wind Turbine. With an overall height of 560 feet and a rotor diameter of 490 feet, the wind turbine is one of the largest of its type in the world.[i] Five of these massive structures will provide 30 MW of power to the island and the grid. The turbines will provide enough power to support the island’s 1,000 inhabitants, who currently use diesel generators to produce electricity.
Opponents to the project cite various reasons for their displeasure. Environmentalists worry about the impact these structures could have on local wildlife. Local residents also have problems of a visual nature; located approximately 3 nautical miles from the shore, the turbines are said to ruin the view. Cost is an issue as well. Despite being cheaper in the short term compared to the diesel generators used now, the price of electricity produced by the turbines is slated to rise 3.5 percent per annum over 20 years.[ii]
The opposition notwithstanding, several positive aspects are worth noting.
Pluses include the use of a clean, renewable source of energy that mitigates the impact of pollution. The island will also be connected to the grid for the first time, increasing reliability. And a connecting fiber-optic cable promises to increase Internet speeds.[iii]
Offshore wind farms, if Europe is to be taken as an example, will become more popular as individual states look to decrease their carbon footprints. For those opposed to their aesthetic qualities (or lack thereof), many wind farms are being proposed far out to sea. The Block Island project, although small, may be the beginning of a new trend in the energy sector.
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[i] “Haliade 150-6MW Offshore Wind Turbine,” GE Renewable Energy, accessed November 7, 2016, http://www.gerenewableenergy.com/wind-energy/turbines/offshore-turbine-haliade.html .
[ii] Michael Carrol, “Critics Blast Power Costs from Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm,” AMI Newswire, August 30, 2016, accessed November 7, 2016, http://aminewswire.com/stories/511002194-critics-blast-power-costs-from-nation-s-first-offshore-wind-farm.
[iii] David Abel, “The Nation’s First Offshore Wind Farm takes Shape off R.I.,” The Boston Globe, August 15, 2016, accessed November 7, 2016, http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2016/08/14/the-nation-first-offshore-wind-farm-takes-shape-off-block-island/243IxkMseo3fDuhI8gN3ML/story.html.