The Rhode Island offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind has turned on the switch on the first offshore wind project in the country, which is now powering Block Island.
Deepwater Wind’s proposed Deepwater ONE project in the waters 30 miles off of Montauk, which was slated to provide power to the East End, is still awaiting a bid award decision from the Long Island Power Authority.
The Deepwater ONE project had been expected to be approved in July of this year, but was postponed at the last minute because LIPA was awaiting the publication of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s blueprint for the state’s Offshore Wind Master Plan.
That document was completed in early fall, but LIPA has not yet made a decision on the Deepwater ONE project.
While LIPA representatives did not respond immediately to a request for comment on the bid award process, they said at the time the vote was rescheduled that “LIPA remains committed to its renewable energy goals and meeting the energy needs of the South Fork.”
The blueprint outlines a series of steps, including stakeholder feedback, that NYSERDA plans to complete before releasing the Master Plan by the end of 2017.
LIPA’s board will meet this coming Tuesday, Dec. 20, though the agenda for that meeting has not yet been made public.
The Block Island Wind Farm, a small project consisting of five 6-megawatt General Electric Haliade wind turbines, became a fiscally viable option due to the high cost of trucking fuel oil for electricity production to the island, which has some of the highest electric rates in the country.
Deepwater Wind executives are hoping improving economies of scale in production will make offshore wind power more financially feasible for coastal communities going forward.
In 2013, Deepwater Wind won a 30-year lease to 256 square miles of offshore federal lands about 30 miles off the coast of Montauk, where they plan to install 15 6-megawatt turbines. They have room there to install up to 200 turbines, if a utility company agrees to buy the electricity they produce.
The energy produced from the Block Island Wind Farm is linked to the New England grid by National Grid’s new sea2shore submarine transmission cable system.
“Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm – and I’m proud to be the only governor in America who can say we have steel in the water and blades spinning over the ocean,” said Rhode Island Governor Gina M. Raimondo when the Block Island turbines were turned on earlier this week. “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. With this project, we’ve put hundreds of our local workers to work at sea and at our world-class ports and are growing this innovative industry. I applaud Deepwater Wind for leading the way.”
“Our success here is a testament to the hard work of hundreds of local workers who helped build this historic project, and to the Block Islanders and the thousands more around the U.S. who’ve supported us every step of the way of this amazing journey,” agreed Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski.
More than 300 Rhode Island workers helped develop, build and commission the project.
“Rhode Island’s tradesmen and women were proud to partner with America’s leading offshore wind developer to help build this historic project,” said Michael F. Sabitoni, President of the Rhode Island Building and Construction Trades Council. “We’re confident that this is just the first of many offshore wind projects that will put Americans to work up and down the East Coast for decades to come as we commit to a renewable energy future .”
The project’s investors include Deepwater Wind’s principal owner, an affiliate of the D.E. Shaw group, Citi, and GE Energy Financial Services, along with lenders Societe Generale, KeyBank, HSBC, SMBC, Cobank, and La Caixa.
“We’ve made history here in the Ocean State, but our work is far from over,” said Mr. Grybowski. “We’re more confident than ever that this is just the start of a new U.S. renewable energy industry that will put thousands of Americans to work and power communities up and down the East Coast for decades to come.”