U.S. offshore wind goes live in R.I.

THE first U.S. wind firm off the shore of Block Island became operational Monday. The Deepwater Wind LLC project has been in the works since 2008. / BLOOMBERG NEWS
THE first U.S. wind firm off the shore of Block Island became operational Monday. The Deepwater Wind LLC project has been in the works since 2008. / BLOOMBERG NEWS

NEW SHOREHAM – It’s official. The nation’s first offshore wind project is now up and running.
Deepwater Wind LLC of Providence announced on Monday its Block Island wind farm project is now operational, marking the first time offshore wind energy is being delivered to the electrical grid in U.S. history.
The energy will power the majority of Block Island and about 1 percent of the rest of Rhode Island.
“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 on this amazing journey,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater, in prepared remarks.
The 30 megawatt project cost about $300 million, marking the first in a nascent domestic industry that renewable energy advocates hope will grow quickly.

Deepwater Wind holds a contract with National Grid PLC, the state’s largest utility company, to sell its offshore wind energy for 24.4 cents per kilowatt hour, which will increase 3.5 percent yearly for two decades. The amount is more expensive than National Grid’s current residential blended rate of 8.18 cents per kilowatt hour, but renewable energy advocates are hopeful those costs will fall up to 40 percent as the industry matures in the United States.
The project has garnered a lot of interest both nationally and internationally from renewable energy companies to financiers.
Gov. Gina M. Raimondo in a statement said she’s proud Rhode Island is home to the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
“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,” Raimondo said. “As the Ocean State, we’re motivated by our shared belief that we need to produce and consume cleaner, more suitable energy and leave our kids a healthier planet – but also by this tremendous economic opportunity.”
The governor expects the industry could put hundreds of local workers to work at sea and at the state’s ports.
Becoming operational brings to an end a two-year installation effort on a project first introduced in 2008.

Offshore wind in Rhode Island and elsewhere has faced staunch opposition, as Deepwater fended off several legal challenges and had to deal with a complex and novel permitting process. More recently, the company hit a snafu when it discovered General Electric Co., which manufactured the turbines, left a drill bit inside one of the generators, rendering it immobile. The issue, however, did not delay the project from becoming operational.

Grybowski – who’s worked on the project since its inception, first in the public sector, then joining the company – is bullish on where the industry is headed, and is already looking at potential projects in New York and Massachusetts.
“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,” he said.

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