America’s first offshore wind farm powering a small community

Global Business

America's first offshore wind farm powering a small community

Block Island, off the coast of Rhode Island, has long been known for its rugged beauty. Surrounded by beaches, rolling hills and fresh-water ponds, it’s a top tourist destination. But now it is known for something else: home to America’s first offshore wind farm, consisting of five turbines capable of powering up to 17,000 homes. 

CGTN’s Karina Huber reports.

Making history wasn’t easy. Developed by Deepwater Wind, the $300 million project faced substantial opposition. Environmentalists were worried about the impact on bird species and some residents weren’t happy about the prospect of altered views.

Long-time resident Lauri McTeague says compromises had to be made.

“It’s a give and take. You want to save something, you’re going to have to maybe not have the best view,” McTeague said.

David Roosa, who has lived on the island for 38 years, says when he looks at the wind farm he doesn’t see an eyesore. He sees progress.

“It’s nice to go by the power company and not see all the smoke coming out of the stacks and the noise and I’m sure the neighbors there really appreciate it,” Roosa said.

The island used to be powered entirely by diesel fuel. Nearly one million gallons of it transported every year by ferry.

“Before Deepwater Wind, Block Island had among the highest electricity rates in the country. They also had the dirtiest power in the country,” Conservation Law Foundation’s Jerry Elmer said.

Now the island is powered almost entirely by clean energy. The project was meant to be a prototype to prove offshore wind can be economically viable in the U.S. Its successful launch has potentially changed the landscape for the offshore wind industry.

Offshore wind power is in its infancy stage in the United States, but there are signs it is picking up. In January, another project was approved off the shores of New York’s Long Island. That project will have up to 15 turbines capable of powering 50,000 homes which will make it the biggest offshore wind farm in the United States.

But some are concerned about the future of renewables in the U.S. Many projects rely on federal tax incentives and U.S. President Donald Trump has shown less enthusiasm for renewables than his predecessor.

“I think that we will continue to see substantial build out of renewable resources and in particular offshore wind regardless of what the federal administration in Washington does,” Elmer said.

He believes states will take the lead in subsidizing projects as they won’t be dropping their mandates to fight climate change. He also expects the price of renewables to continue to fall, which will help the industry grow.

“As time goes on, these subsidies from state or federal government are becoming increasingly less important,” Elmer said.

America’s first offshore wind farm may be small but its potential is huge. A recent U.S. government report concludes offshore wind could produce about double the amount of electricity currently generated in the U.S.

Environmental advocate Kari Fulton discusses the future of offshore wind energy in the United States and around the world.