First US offshore wind farm in progress, alternative energy lovers rejoice

After many years of debate and negotiation, the first offshore wind farm in the United States is being constructed off the coast of Block Island, a small isle off the coast of Rhode Island. Though the modest five-turbine project is not as ambitious as its Massachusetts-based counterpart Cape Wind, which is planned to be built in Nantucket Sound and is stalled in production, many environmental activists and proponents of alternative energy sources view it as a crucial step for the United States’ alternative energy revolution. The New York Times reports:

click to enlarge. Courtesy of National Wildlife Foundation

click to enlarge. Courtesy of National Wildlife Federation

“Steel in the water off Block Island is an important step in proving that offshore wind is a viable technology off the coast of the United States,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees leasing federal waters. “Having an offshore wind project that people can see and understand and study will take away a lot of the concerns that folks had.”

Deepwater Wind, the company behind the new wind farm, has leased a 256 square mile parcel of water space, which could fit 250 wind turbines. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is happy to oblige companies seeking space for offshore alternative energy construction, having already sold leases off the New Jersey and Massachusetts coasts, and currently researching potential sites off the Carolinas.

Wind is a growing segment of the United States’ alternative energy market: the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) reports that the current proposed or advancing offshore wind farm plans could generate as many as  6.47 Gigawatts of power upon completion (enough to supply power to almost 3.25 million homes). The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is optimistic about US offshore wind as well, rating nearly all of our Atlantic and Pacific coastlines as “Outstanding” or “Superb” conditions for wind power (map below).

US offshore wind suitability map, courtesy of NREL

click to enlarge. Courtesy of NREL.

As news continues to pour in of alternative energy breakthroughs overseas (like in Iceland, Costa Rica, and Scotland, for example), alternative energy enthusiasts and proponents in the US grow ever more eager to see the industry thrive stateside.