Fortune | August 8, 2016 | Katie Fehrenbacher
The first wind turbines to be installed off the coasts of the United States were constructed over the past few days about three miles offshore of Block Island, Rhode Island.
While wind farms have been built all over the U.S. on land, the market for building wind farms in U.S. waters has stalled thanks to legal threats, lack of regulatory support, and push back from coastal property owners. At the same time, the “offshore wind” industry has boomed throughout Europe.
The construction milestone is an indicator that offshore wind is finally becoming a reality in the U.S. after many years of fits and starts, and could one day provide substantial amounts of clean energy to Americans.
Construction on the wind farm, which is using gear from GE among others, started about a year ago. When completed later this year, the farm is supposed to provide about 30 megawatts of energy, a relatively small amount compared to what natural gas and coal plants, or even large-scale solar farms, can generate.
However, what the Block Island Wind Farm lacks in size, it makes up for in timing. Multiple offshore wind projects have been planned for the eastern seaboard for years, but many have stalled.
The poster child for the lagging offshore U.S. wind industry is Cape Wind, a once planned $2.6 billion project to install wind turbines across 24 square miles off the coast of Nantucket. After years of legal battles, including from residents that didn’t want their views spoiled by turbines, the companies that had committed to buy the energy from Cape Wind backed out.
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