An energy revolution is happening east of Long Island.
In the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Deepwater Wind is constructing the nation's first offshore wind farm--five wind turbines off Block Island, Rhode Island.
Deepwater Wind has emerged as the leading offshore wind company in the United States.
It is seeking to follow its Block Island project, to be in operation this year, with what it calls Deepwater ONE, 30 miles southeast of Montauk, Long Island. Deepwater ONE would initially involve 15 turbines but the goal is for eventually 200--and their generating a significant portion of electricity for Long Island and southern New England.
And Deepwater Wind is working to follow that up with Garden State Offshore Energy--a joint venture with the New Jersey utility PSEG--with ultimately 200 wind turbines off Cape May, New Jersey. They would produce electricity for New Jersey.
A key innovation made by Deepwater Wind is figuring out how wind turbines can be placed in deep water--as reflected in its name--over the horizon and out of sight.
This eliminates the complaints heard on Long Island 15 years ago when the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) proposed a wind farm off Jones Beach which also were raised on Martha's Vineyard when the Cape Wind company sought to build a wind farm off that Massachusetts island.
The need to place wind turbines in relatively shallow water and close to shore in was a result of "old technology," says Clint Plummer, vice president of development for Deepwater Wind. However, Providence, Rhode Island-based Deepwater Wind has drawn from technology established in offshore gas and oil drilling and the European experience with offshore wind to develop wind turbines that can be placed way out to sea. Also, he notes, the wind is stronger there.
"Our focus is to avoid the controversy entirely by locating wind turbines over the horizon," says Mr. Plummer.
The U.S. has been exceedingly slow in moving ahead on offshore wind--a technology that's been booming in Europe, notably in the United Kingdom, Denmark and Germany. There are now 3,000 wind turbines off Europe. "Offshore wind is a vitally important resource for densely populated coastal areas," says Mr. Plummer. "The European recognized that"The first offshore wind farm in the world was built off the coast of Denmark in 1991" and is "still operating."
Some $20 billion a year is being invested in offshore wind, he says, and 85,000 people employed. "It has become a massive global industry."
"It's a big industry producing big results," says Mr. Plummer. "We have a real opportunity here in the United States particularly in the Northeast--Long Island, New England, the Mid-Atlantic States."
This part of the U.S. relies on old power plants and there'll be a need for a "massive change-over." Offshore wind "can be a big part," he says, in "replacing the old, retiring, dirty and expensive fossil fuel plants" as well as "retiring nuclear facilities."
For a cost the same or less as building conventional power plants, there could be offshore wind farms, he says. "We can do it cost-effectively. We can do it without controversy by installing wind turbines far enough offshore so they are over the horizon, and out of conflicted areas--shipping lanes and productive fishing areas."
For its Deepwater ONE project, Deepwater Wind also seeks to combine energy storage with production. It is proposing two battery energy storage facilities on industrially zoned sites in Montauk and Wainscott on Long Island to hold power for when the wind lightens up.