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.
Offshore wind, he says, also has a big advantage over onshore wind in that the components for on land turbines have "real sizing constraints"--they must be transported "over roads and bridges and around corners." Offshore wind turbines can be assembled at coastal sites and then "taken by barge off-shore." That's why, he said, the average size of a wind turbine on land is two to three megawatts while offshore turbines are six to eight megawatts. And the larger wind turbines are, "the more energy they are able to harvest out of the air."
There has been worry among fishing interests on eastern Long Island, but Mr. Plummer says that Deepwater Wind's turbines will be a mile apart providing plenty of room for fishing. He says Deepwater Wind wants to "work closely" with the fishing community.
As for the concern of birds getting killed, he said Deepwater Wind conducted a two-year study using "avian radar" and found that birds in migration hug the coast and are not out where the Deepwater Wind turbines would be.
Although LIPA has not been bullish on offshore wind since its chairman Richard Kessel, a great advocate, left, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is highly enthusiastic. In January in his "State of the State" address he announced an initiative involving government "at all levels" and the citizenry. He described offshore wind as an enormous opportunity. The National Wildlife Federation applauded Mr. Cuomo's "commitment to clean energy." Said its Northeast Regional Director Curtis Fisher: "For the first time today, a New York governor highlighted the important role offshore wind power must play in its energy future."