Winds of Change

IN A MATTER OF WEEKS America’s first offshore wind farm will be up and running in our backyard. Those five toothpicks with spinning white arms on the eastern horizon are the forerunners of clean-power generation for Long Island.

The current array, the $200 million Block Island Wind Farm, is said to be capable of producing enough power for about 17,000 houses and (while connecting Block Island for the first time to the New England grid via an underwater cable making landfall near Narragansett) is destined to serve that small island first and foremost.

But Deepwater Wind — the Rhode Island company that, working with GE, is behind this initial phase — hopes to add 15 more turbines to serve as many as 50,000 homes on the South Fork of Long Island, and eventually up to 195 turbines to feed into the broader tristate grid. This should help New York State to achieve its Clean Energy Standard, a mandate requiring half of New York’s electricity to come from renewable sources by 2030.

The structures, about three miles south of Block Island, stand 600 feet high (that’s twice as high as the Statue of Liberty) and are pile-anchored to the ocean floor, enabling them to withstand up to category 3 storms.

If Deepwater Wind is successful, it could lead to a boom in renewable wind energy produced off our shores. Studies have shown that the area off New York’s Atlantic Coast possesses enough wind-energy potential to power approximately 15 million residences.

Levi Shaw-Faber

Associate editor