First US offshore wind farm powering Block Island

(Photo: Deepwater Wind)

NEW SHOREHAM, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — The nation’s first offshore wind farm is now powering more of Rhode Island.

The Block Island Power Company says it shut down its diesel generators and transferred the island’s electrical grid Monday, a savings of nearly 1 million gallons of diesel fuel annually.

Deepwater Wind’s five turbines began generating power for the mainland grid in December. Block Island had to be connected with a new cable.

“When it’s blowing, the electrons will be flowing,” quipped New Shoreham First Warden Ken Lacoste.

The power company says the early morning transfer was the final step in a process that began more than a decade ago when the cost of fuel for the generators drove electrical costs to more than 60 cents per kilowatt hour.

The wind power is expected to save Block Island’s 2,000 electric customers about $30 per bill, according to Block Island Power Company President Jeffery Wright.

“Our customers will realize an immediate cost savings in their monthly bills,” Wright said at a foggy island news conference Monday.

The five turbines represent the first off-shore wind farm in the United States. Deepwater Wind, the company that built them, said the turbines cost $300 million, a sum that will be paid back by Rhode Island ratepayers on their electric bills over the next 20 years.

About one-sixth of the power generated by the turbines is powering Block Island, according to Wright, and the rest goes to the mainland. It powers the equivalent of 17,000 homes, but still represents only 1.5% of the total power usage in Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski said the company has no plans to add more turbines to the Block Island wind farm, which is so close to shore, but does have long-term plans to build up to 200 turbines off the coast of Long Island, New York. Those turbines could eventually produce power for Rhode Island’s electric grid, Grybowski said.

Photo of wind turbine foundation off Block Island. (Credit: Deepwater Wind)

PHOTOS: Deepwater Wind Installation »

 

Gov. Gina Raimondo praised the switch-over on Monday, saying in part, “I’m proud to be the Governor of the only state with steel in the water and blades spinning over the ocean.”