The latest thing in energy: the Block Island Wind Farm. Photo: John Rogers

Unleash the Ocean Winds: 3 Signs that Offshore Wind Energy Has Arrived in the US

, Senior energy analyst | December 15, 2016, 1:26 pm EDT
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UPDATE (Dec. 16, 1:34 pm EST): The intense bidding is finally over! After a marathon session that spilled into a second day, and 33 rounds (!) of bidding, the winner of the New York offshore wind area lease is Statoil Wind US. The $42.5 million winning price is by far the highest amount paid in any of the dozen auctions to date, and a real vote of confidence in the future of offshore wind in the US. Exciting times indeed.

It’s been quite a week for offshore wind in the US—new leases, new deals, and the first-ever offshore wind electrons in the Western Hemisphere.

The first-ever offshore wind project in the Americas officially turns on.

The week kicked off with the first-ever offshore wind project anywhere in the Americas getting the go-ahead to start delivering energy to Block Island (RI) and beyond, and officially turning on.

The Block Island Wind Project‘s five turbines are the vanguard of an amazing revolution in renewable energy in the Northeast and beyond—jobs, economic development, carbon-free energy, and a whole new way of getting the power we need to run the region’s homes and businesses. (Turn, baby, turn!)

There’s offshore wind action in Massachusetts.

The week’s offshore wind oomph continued with an announcement yesterday that Eversource, a local electricity and gas utility in several New England states, had signed on to get a piece of offshore wind action in the region.

Eversource has bought a 50-percent stake in a venture owned by the Danish company DONG. Bay State Wind, as it’s known, holds one of the offshore wind leases off Massachusetts’s south coast—enough area, they say, to power at least one million Massachusetts homes.

Thanks to the Massachusetts energy law from this past summer that will drive Massachusetts utilities to buy offshore wind, we’ll need all that, and much more.

One of the biggest prizes in offshore wind is up for auction. Right now.

And even as I write this, I keep hitting the refresh button to watch a host of offshore wind bidders competing for one of the biggest prizes to be had: New York. BOEM, the US government agency responsible for managing our coastal areas (the Outer Continental Shelf) that will host future offshore wind projects, is conducting an auction on several lease areas south of Long Island, and close to New York City. A new round of bidding is happening every 20 minutes, and so far no bidders have dropped out.

So stay tuned. I can’t guarantee that every week is going to be this exciting in the world of US offshore wind. But I can guarantee that the next few years of offshore wind activity are going to be well worth keeping an eye on.

For more of a taste of the excitement around the Block Island project, check out what the National Wildlife Federation, the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, and the Natural Resources Defense Council each had to say. People are pretty pumped.

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  • williamfhoran

    The $600 million cost to ratepayers over the supposed 20 year life of the turbines, plus the illegal 3% mark up to National Grid, is unacceptable. That includes the $100 million cost of the undersea cables.

    Just these 5 turbines will raise rates on an average bill by $1.00 a month – not that bad you say? Deepwater wind already has a deal approved to build 200 of these which will raise the rate on the average bill by $200 a month.

    Politicians created or altered State law 3 times in order to force this pig into reality.

    1 – allowing National Grid to profit off the power sale by 3% something that has been illegal since deregulation

    2 – allowing the $100 million dollar costs of the underseas power cables to be passed on to ratepayers as a separate item

    3 – Forcing the RI PUC to accept the deal after it was rejected as too costly for ratepayers.
    Smart people learn from other people’s mistakes to avoid their own. Please Watch and learn. at url below.
    Titled Energy in Europe A discussion on the current electricity debacle in Europe. We in the North east are repeating this costly mistake today.
    We in the USA have bought the same hokum hook line and sinker. Hopefully the short video will open your eyes to the defective economic & technical factors!
    Yes aka obama & especially the North East Governor have abandoned Yankee common sense and horse sense! Wind and Solar is and elusion and delusion marketed by Scammers. Repeating this mistake and expecting different results is a sign of a frighten ignorance bordering on insanity. Such erodes the underpinning of our nation. Read further

    • ucsjrogers

      As you can imagine, Mr. Horan, I see things a little differently, and I think the facts support a more positive view of recent events.

      For Rhode Island, the Block Island project is an investment in an energy future in which the Ocean State can be a full participant, thanks to an entirely new generating option. The state, like its neighbors, has no gas or coal (or oil) of its own, and has plenty of reasons to want less generation/energy from any of those options. It does have ocean, and it has ocean winds. Ignoring those, and not trying out offshore wind technology, would seem like a wrong way to go.

      Our future doesn’t lie in the past. We know we need to do things differently — better — and we know we can. And technologies like offshore wind just add to the array of options we have for doing things right.

      – John

  • solodoctor

    Great news for the East Coast! I hope that similar projects will develop on the West Coast where I live. I know of places offshore in California where the wind blows steadily enough to be viable locations for these kinds of facilities. Anything happening out here?

    • ucsjrogers

      Thanks for that enthusiasm, Dr. S. The West Coast was certainly part of the discussion at the offshore wind conference I attended in October. The challenge there is the fact that the Outer Continental Shelf drops off so much more quickly, meaning that offshore wind farms there (and in Hawaii, too) will likely have to be done with floating wind turbines. That’s a technology that’s been deployed in Europe, but only at a pilot scale. There have been West Coast proposals, though, and we’ll be keeping an eye on them and the technology, in any case. – John