The Empowering Site Off in the Distance:
The Nation’s First Ocean Wind Farm
It’s really something to see if you’ve never set eyes upon an offshore wind farm. At Payne Overlook or the Southeast Lighthouse, you can enjoy selfie-worthy vistas of the nation’s first offshore wind farm as you stand atop the island’s Mohegan Bluffs.
Three miles in the distance appear the five turbines, each with three spinning blades and stretching to 600 feet at the highest reach of the blades (for reference, the Statue of Liberty is 305 feet tall). In summer, you will also be treated to the sight of sailboats and fishing vessels plying the waters below.
The turbines spin fast and often enough to supply all of the island’s power needs — and more. The power is sent to the mainland, conveyed through a cable buried under the seafloor.
With images proliferating on Facebook and Instagram, the wind farm has become an enduring symbol of Block Island, much like the adjacent Southeast Lighthouse. In fact, with an apparent increasing abundance of sea life surrounding the turbine bases, it’s also become a destination for sportfishing boats motoring from Long Island, Connecticut, and mainland Rhode Island.
The wind farm was built at a cost of about $300 million. It is owned and operated by Ørsted, a Danish renewable energy company that works to “take tangible action to create a world that runs entirely on green energy.” Besides wind energy facilities around the world, Ørsted owns bio-energy plants and innovative waste-to-energy solutions. Ørsted’s wind projects provide power usage for about 30 million people worldwide.
On the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, offshore wind farms are now being planned by Ørsted for Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Virginia. The Block Island project is the progenitor of the trend for more offshore wind power, setting case law and offering experiential knowledge to planners, suppliers, and builders.