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By Kit Kennedy
With the flip of a switch Monday, the country's first offshore wind power project began commercial operations. That's something to celebrate—and it's only the beginning for this abundant energy resource!
An American First: The nation's first offshore wind power project, located off the Rhode Island coast, can be the first of many, as long as federal and state governments continue to lead with smart policies.
Developed by U.S.-based Deepwater Wind, the Block Island Wind Farm is located three miles southeast of Block Island, in Rhode Island waters and features five 6-megawatt turbines—enough to power 17,000 homes; transmission cables connect the turbines to Block Island and the mainland. Four of the turbines went online Monday and Deepwater expects the fifth to be operating next month once a minor fix is made.
Previously, Block Island relied on an electricity plant that burned polluting and expensive diesel oil. By displacing that plant, the Block Island Wind Farm will not only improve public health and air quality, but also reduce the cost of electricity for Block Islanders by as much as 40 percent.
Deepwater employed more than 300 local workers in the construction process, including welders, ironworkers, electricians and carpenters, with vessels moving in and out of four Rhode Island ports. The massive steel support structures for the turbines were built by Gulf Island Fabrication, a Louisiana- and Texas-based offshore oil and gas platform manufacturer.
And these jobs will be only the beginning, if the U.S. continues to commit to offshore wind power. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that by 2050, with the right policies in place, the offshore wind industry could support 160,000 jobs here in America.
Deepwater worked hard, with stakeholders and others, to build support for the project and minimize conflicts. And the Natural Resources Defense Council was proud to join them, other environmental groups and the New England Aquarium in developing specific steps to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales in the area during project construction; Deepwater will follow similar protective measures in building other offshore wind projects in the area.
NRDC is proud to have joined other environmental groups, the New England Aquarium, and developer Deepwater Wind in developing steps to protect endangered North Atlantic Right Whales during construction. That's me visiting during the initial construction.
Block Island is Just the Start for Wind Power
At least ten other U.S. offshore wind projects are already poised to move forward. And soon, the Long Island Power Authority, with the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is slated to approve a contract for a 90-megawatt offshore wind project 30 miles northeast of Montauk.
The federal agency in charge of offshore wind power siting—the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—has already granted 11 leases to offshore wind developers in designated "wind energy areas" along the Atlantic coast. These developers include American companies such as Deepwater Wind and Fishermen's Energy, as well as leading European developers like DONG Energy. Overall, the U.S. Department of Energy sees the potential to develop 86 gigawatts of offshore wind power capacity by 2050, enough to power 31 million homes.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management 's next offshore wind leasing auction is scheduled for Dec. 15 for the New York wind energy area, an 80,000-acre area located 12 miles south of the Rockaways and Long Beach. New York's clean energy agency, NYSERDA, will participate in that auction as part of an innovative plan for the state to guide offshore wind development and promote competition.
Next up: The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is slated to auction leasing rights to an offshore wind energy area on Dec. 15, as offshore wind power continues to make progress here in the U.S. after decades of success in Europe. U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management
Offshore Wind Costs are Coming Down
Eighty-two offshore wind power projects in a dozen European countries now supply electricity to 8 million European homes. As offshore wind in Europe has scaled up, a robust supply chain has developed and technology has advanced, resulting in plummeting costs there. In fact, prices have dropped by 28 percent since the second half of 2015 alone and continue to fall.
The U.S. offshore wind industry will also experience these lower costs as more projects are built and the U.S. creates its own supply chain. In some areas, such as Long Island's South Fork where electricity prices are high and land for generation or transmission is scarce, offshore wind power is already cost-competitive. The Long Island Power Authority, for instance, has stated that the South Fork offshore wind project is the lowest cost option for that region's needs.
Offshore wind will add economic value in other ways, too. Eighty percent of the electricity used in the U.S. is consumed in coastal states, much of it in population centers close to offshore winds. By avoiding the need for lengthy and expensive new transmission infrastructure, offshore wind can reduce system costs. And because offshore wind power produces the most electricity when demand is high—on hot summer afternoons and cold winter days and nights—it can help make the electric grid more reliable and lower wholesale electricity costs, which skyrocket when demand soars. Offshore wind also produces health benefits by displacing fossil fuel power generation, not only protecting our communities but avoiding an array of health-related costs.
Because of its jobs, infrastructure, clean energy and public health benefits, offshore wind has won bipartisan support at the state level. Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, for instance, signed legislation this summer that will lead to the construction of 1,600 megawatts of offshore wind capacity off Massachusetts within a decade. New York's Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, has committed to making offshore wind a key part of his plan to get 50 percent of New York's electricity from renewable sources by 2030.
While offshore wind generation is just beginning, America's onshore wind industry continues to surge, providing almost 5 percent of U.S. electricity generation last year and surpassing 75 gigawatts of total capacity this year.
During the campaign, President-elect Donald Trump vowed to strengthen American infrastructure and create jobs. Investing in clean energy—from energy efficiency to land-based wind to solar and offshore wind power—is the smartest way to do this. For progress on offshore wind to continue at the right pace, the federal government must continue to be an active partner with states like Massachusetts and New York in siting offshore wind infrastructure. As the new administration and Congress take office, the Natural Resources Defense Council will work with other clean energy stakeholders to build the case for this partnership and all the benefits it can produce.
Check out this new video about the Block Island Wind Farm:
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Germany will soon be home to a groundbreaking wind farm that solves a big problem with wind power: What happens when the wind isn't blowing?
General Electric's (GE) renewable energy arm has signed a turbine-supply agreement with German construction company Max Bögl to develop the world's first wind farm with an integrated hydropower plant capable of generating power even when there's no breeze.
According to GE Reports, project "Gaildorf" consists of four wind turbines scattered along a hill in the Swabian-Franconian Forest. These towers are unique in two ways. First, they will stand at a record-breaking height of 584 feet once built. Second, at the base of each tower is a water reservoir containing 1.6 million gallons of water. The four towers are daisy chained by a channel that takes water down a valley to a 16-megawatt pump/generator hydropower plant. The site will house another reservoir holding 9 million gallons of water for additional water storage.
Here's how it all works, as GE Reports simply explains:
"The big idea here is that the wind will generate electricity when it's, well, windy, and the water will act as a giant battery that will discharge and modulate output when it stops blowing.
"When electricity is needed, water flowing downhill from the reservoirs will power the hydro plant. When the energy supply is high, the hydro plant will pump the water back up the hill to the reservoirs and will act as the giant battery."
The four wind turbines are connected by a channel that takes water down to a hydro plant.GE Reports
The beauty of this project is that stored hydropower can offset the unpredictability of wind power.
"The Gaildorf project marks a major step forward in balancing power demand and supply fluctuations using renewable energy sources," GE said in a statement. "The combined wind and hydropower plant will provide balancing power for fast-response stabilization of the grid, maintaining a low cost of electricity for residents in Germany."
The wind farm alone will generate 13.6 megawatts of energy while the hydropower plant can generate 16 megawatts. The turbines are scheduled to be commissioned by the end of 2017. The Gaildorf project is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2018.
“We are very excited to collaborate with Max Bögl on this pilot project; a first for the industry," Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE's Onshore Wind business, said. "We are committed to exploring innovative renewable energy technologies that have the potential to improve grid flexibility in Europe and around the world."
The Iowa Utilities Board approved the nation's largest wind energy project, which will power 800,000 homes once completed.
Macksburg Wind ProjectMidAmerican Energy
The 2,000-megawatt Wind XI project should be completed by the end of 2019.
"Wind energy helps us keep prices stable and more affordable for customers, provides jobs and economic benefits for communities and the state, and contributes to a cleaner environment for everyone," said Bill Fehrman, the CEO of the utility behind the project.
Bruce Nilles, senior director for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, agrees. Nilles said in a statement:
"This is an amazing example of how the unstoppable transition towards a 100% clean energy economy is moving faster than many expected. This is a landmark moment not only for the burgeoning wind energy industry in Iowa, a state which already runs on more than one-third wind energy and employs thousands of hard-working Iowans, but for the entire nation, as the largest wind project ever approved in the country. Iowa and MidAmerican's rapid transition from dirty coal to affordable and renewable wind energy offers a clear path for utilities nationwide to make major strides towards 100% clean energy in a way that provides family-supporting jobs and without rate increases.
This also represents a huge leap forward for one of Warren Buffett's three utilities and is a model for how his other two can quickly follow suit, particularly Pacificorp, which operates the largest coal fleet in the West. We still have tremendous work to ensure that this transition keeps moving full speed ahead, but one thing is certain: with announcements like the one today, we aren't ever going back to dirty fossil fuels."
For a deeper dive:
By Wendy Sol
Environmentalists see a devil and an angel on Gov. Cuomo's shoulder and it appears both are getting their way when it comes to New York's energy future—although one will have to be more patient than the other.
At the behest of state energy regulators in July, the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) delayed plans to approve a wind farm expected to be built 30 miles off the shore of Montauk at the far northern end of Long Island. With 15 turbines producing 90 megawatts (MW) of electricity, the project, built by Deepwater Wind LLC, would be the most sizable of its kind in the U.S., which has lagged significantly behind Europe in developing offshore wind resources.
"We're looking at this and seeing a tremendous offshore wind resource that will be developed and it's not the last," Thomas Falcone, the utility's chief executive officer told the Associated Press a week ahead of the scheduled vote. "[T]his is a very big step for New York, but also for the U.S."
From Virginia to Maine, the Eastern seaboard has the potential to harness 240,000 MW of offshore wind, nearly 40,000 MW of which blows off Long Island's coast, according to research by the New York Energy Policy Institute and Stony Brook University. Deepwater Wind's farm will only generate a fraction of what is possible but environmentalists see the plan as an important move toward weaning New York off of polluting energy sources like gas, coal and nuclear.
"It's going to help to open the door here to offshore wind power," said Kim Fraczek, of the New York-based Sane Energy Project. The group hopes the project will lead to more turbines, including some off of Long Island's southeastern shore, where Sane Energy won a hard-fought campaign last year to block a natural gas terminal and is now advocating for construction of a 750 MW wind farm in its place.
The state's Energy and Research Development Authority, chaired by Cuomo-appointed energy czar Richard Kaufman, intervened last month and requested that the LIPA delay approving the Montauk wind farm until the state releases an offshore wind master plan in August. It was the second time this summer the LIPA put off voting on the wind farm, which was originally expected to be greenlit in June.
The Deepwater Wind farm might be in need of CPR after the bureaucratic hold up, but Cuomo is breathing new life into geriatric nuclear reactors upstate, currently hemorrhaging money for their operators.
When the New York Public Service Commission approved new clean energy standards on Aug. 1, it included a provision that will force the state's power utilities to purchase $7.6 billion worth of electricity over the next 12 years from the R. E. Ginna and Nine Mile Point nuclear plants operated by Exelon Corp, as well as Entergy's James A. FitzPatrick nuclear facility.
Cuomo, who sought the bailout for the struggling plants and tied it to plans for New York to receive 50 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, praised the commission's decision. Electrical providers, forced to buy nuclear power at above-market rates, are going to "pay for the intrinsic value of carbon-free emissions," Cuomo said in a statement.
Ratepayers will ultimately be the ones picking up the tab, however, as utilities pass on the cost of electricity from nuclear power to consumers.
Critics also observe that while carbon emissions from nuclear plants are minimal compared to those burning fossil fuels, the process of mining and enriching uranium required to power reactors is carbon-intensive. The plants emit radioactive chemicals into the environment as a matter of daily operation, produce large amounts of toxic waste and present a safety risk to the public, as evidenced by the 2011 Fukushima disaster, which only increases as they age.
"These plants are old and decaying," said Fraczek. "[The bailout] is a giant slap in the face to the public."
Her hope is that plans for the wind farm off the coast of Montauk will eventually move forward and pave the way for more ambitious projects, including the 750 MW wind farm Sane Energy wants built off the coast of the Rockaways in Queens.
"The only way our state is going to truly meet its renewable energy goals is with offshore wind," she said.
This article was reposted with permission from our media associate The Indypendent.
Surrounded by monstrous blades and tower sections on the docks of the Port of Providence, Gov. Gina Raimondo was joined by local elected leaders and clean energy advocates Monday to celebrate the final stages of construction of the nation's first offshore wind farm.
Fred. Olsen Windcarrier
As soon as next week, the company Deepwater Wind will begin installing the turbine towers and blades for the project, located three miles southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island and east of Long Island, New York.
With the potential to supply all of Block Island with clean power, the 30 MW wind farm could jumpstart the nation's efforts to finally capture the immense pollution-free resource off our coasts, advocates say.
"We're poised to tap the tremendous energy resource provided by the winds that blow off our shores," Rob Sargent, Environment America's Energy Program director and among those celebrating the project today in Providence, said. "Rhode Island deserves tremendous credit for being the first, but it certainly won't be the last."
Located in a renewable energy zone designated by Rhode Island state officials several years ago, the Block Island project will reduce carbon dioxide emissions over the next 20 years in amounts equivalent to taking 150,000 cars off the road, create more than 300 jobs and save local residents up to 40 percent on their energy bills.
Other projects off the Atlantic Coast could provide similar benefits. A 2014 report showed that the 1.5 million acres designated for wind energy off the Atlantic Coast could support enough electricity to power more than 5 million homes, offsetting dirty fossil fuel energy sources and creating local jobs.
Advocates urged other Atlantic Coast states to follow Rhode Island's lead and pressed federal decision makers to continue to do their part to support offshore wind.
"If we're serious about tackling pollution from fossil fuels and helping our local economy, we should commit ourselves to meeting all our energy needs with clean, renewable energy sources such as offshore wind," Sargent said.
"That's why we need bold commitments from governors and state leaders, we need Congress to extend offshore wind tax incentives and we need federal officials to continue leading the way through programs like the Smart from the Start Initiative. With the right support, Block Island will be just the beginning."
Is it any surprise that Donald Trump—who believes the "concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive"—did not mention climate change even once in his rambling speech accepting the Republican nomination for president last night in Cleveland?
Donald Trump accepts the Republican party's nomination for president of the United StatesFlickr
Trump's red-faced speech, which clocked in at a record-length of 1 hour and 16 minutes, depicted a broken, crime-ridden nation that he "alone can fix it," but made no indication he'd fix one of the greatest threats to national security: climate change.
The Republican nominee's clear lack of support for the environment has drawn criticism from environmental advocates.
"Donald Trump has never been at a loss for words, but his address tonight was silent on the rising climate crisis threatening American communities across the nation," Sierra Club political director Khalid Pitts said.
"In one of the most dark and foreboding nomination speeches in our history, its tone foreshadows the fate which awaits environmental protections if he is elected president. While Trump spoke of American leadership and strength, if elected, he would be the only head of state on earth to deny the science and dangers of climate change, undermining America's global leadership and weakening our position before every negotiation we face."
As EcoWatch reported last week, a study from the Sierra Club Political Committee revealed that not only would Trump be the only world leader to deny climate change if elected president, he'd possibly be the only one not calling for urgent climate action. He even wants to renegotiate the Paris climate deal, because he believes it treats the U.S. unfairly and gives favorable treatment to his nemesis, China.
"Never before has a major party nominated someone so uniquely unfit for the job; Trump completely and utterly lacks the good judgment, sound temperament, and character needed in the White House," Clay Schroers, the campaigns director at the League of Conservation voters, said.
"On its own, his blatant ignorance of basic science and insistence that climate change is a hoax should disqualify Trump, but his racist rhetoric, ugly campaign and full embrace of the dirty fossil fuel industry put the matter to rest. Donald Trump is an unacceptable nominee, and should never be president."
The Republican National Convention speaker line-up this week reflected the GOP's storied legacy of climate denial, with fossil fuel billionaire and major fracking proponent Harold Hamm given a prime-time slot at the convention Wednesday night. Hamm, who advises Trump on energy and environmental issues, made his billions at the expense of the Earth and its people and has silenced Oklahoma state geologists who've linked fracking activity to the state's alarming spate of earthquakes.
Trump, whose presidential campaign is built on fear-mongering and racist rhetoric, once admitted that he intentionally says provocative things to keep his audience riled up. However, if an issue threatens the billionaire's own self-interests, he means business.
The Guardian reported today that Trump is continuing his bitter fight against a wind farm being built near his luxury golf resort in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, calling the renewable energy project an act of "public vandalism."
Even though the UK Supreme Court unanimously rejected the mogul's appeal against the offshore wind farm of 11 turbines, a spokesperson for The Trump Organization told the Guardian that Trump will be lodging formal objections and will pursue further action in European courts if necessary.
The Trump Organization had denounced the Scottish government's 92.4-megawatt wind farm project as "foolish, small minded and parochial," according to Reuters.
Many Aberdeenshire locals have protested Trump's golf course. The documentary You've Been Trumped depicts how the the land Trump purchased sits on one of "Europe's most environmentally sensitive stretches of coast, described by one leading scientist as Scotland's Amazon rainforest," according to the film's website.
By no coincidence, You've Been Trumped was shown at the Capitol Theatre in Cleveland Wednesday evening with Michael Forbes, the Scottish farmer branded "a pig" by Trump and his farm "a slum" after standing in the way of the billionaire's luxury golf course development, and director Anthony Baxter on hand for Q&A after the film.
Watch the trailer below: