Secretary of Interior Sally Jewel watches as construction begins on the nation's first offshore wind farm on Block Island off the Rhode Island coast on July 27, 2015. The wind farm will produce more than 100 million kilowatt hours of clean energy annually. Photo courtesy Department of the Interior
BLOCK ISLAND, R.I., Dec. 13 (UPI) -- Turbines are spinning at a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, powering the region for the first time in an offshore capacity, a company announced.
Project developer Deepwater Wind said its Block Island wind farm is now in commercial operations, marking a first for the United States.
"We've made history here in the Ocean State, but our work is far from over," Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said. "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."
Construction on the five foundations, which were built by a Louisiana company whose specialty is the offshore oil and gas industry, began last summer.
At peak capacity, the project should yield 30 megawatts of electric power, powering the 17,000 homes on Block Island, 12 miles from the mainland, that currently use diesel fuel for electricity. Excess electricity will be carried to the mainland by cable.
The turbines are 589 feet above sea level, making them among the tallest in the world. The offshore wind energy industry is in its infancy in the United States, but already supplying Europe with more than 11,000 megawatts of power. Germany and Britain are among the world leaders in offshore wind energy.
According to American Wind Energy Association, offshore wind has the capacity to produce four times as much power as what's currently on the U.S. grid. With policies moving in support of an industry that's become more efficient, the AWEA said there are offshore wind projects in various planning stages in most U.S. territorial waters, including the Great Lakes.
"Rhode Island is proud to be home to the nation's first offshore wind farm -- and 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," Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo said.