The nation's first offshore wind farm has opened off the coast of Rhode Island, ushering in a new era in the US. Deepwater Wind built five turbines 3 miles off Block Island to power about 17,000 homes, a project costing about $300 million. It announced Monday that the wind farm has begun producing energy for the grid. Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski calls the opening a momentous occasion that unlocks the code of how to do offshore wind in the US at a crucial time when states are trying to figure out how to replace aging power plants. "We're more confident than ever that this is just the start of a new US renewable energy industry that will put thousands of Americans to work and power communities up and down the East Coast for decades," he said Monday. Deepwater Wind installed the wind farm over two years, with the five turbines installed in August. National Grid is buying the output.
"We've gone from the theoretical to the actual and you can't replace that with any model," Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, told the AP. "To be able to go and see turbines spinning in US waters is incredible." Many Block Island residents supported the wind farm as a way to drive down the island's high energy costs, though some opposed it out of fear that the turbines would dramatically alter ocean views. The wind farm is expected to supply about 30 megawatts of electricity annually, more than enough to meet Block Island's current demand; the excess will be redirected to mainland Rhode Island through a submarine cable. Grybowski said the industry is focusing on states with strong interest, including New York and Massachusetts. Deepwater Wind is negotiating with a New York utility to build a 15-turbine wind farm off eastern Long Island. (Read more wind farm stories.)