The first commercial offshore wind energy turbine in U.S. waters took shape Thursday morning, as contractors for Deepwater Wind LLC lifted the first turbine and rotor blades into place off Block lsland, R.I.
“The U.S. offshore industry has started. 1st turbine installation complete at 8:30 a.m.,” Deepwater CEO Jeff Grybowski announced on the social network Twitter, after the 433’x128’ jack-up vessel Brave Tern, operated by Fred. Olsen Windcarrier AS of Oslo, Norway, lifted the last pieces into place.
The five-turbine, 30-megawatt demonstration project in Rhode Island state waters should be producing power by November. With Deepwater’s base of operations at the Quonset Point marine terminal in North Kingston and the first U.S.-flag crew service vessel built by Blount Boats in Warren, state officials are betting the Ocean State can become a hub for developing much larger wind arrays in federal waters.
But that momentum appeared to falter when New York energy officials delayed a planned July 20 vote on Deepwater’s proposal for a 15-turbine project producing up to 90 megawatts about 30 miles east of Montauk, on Long Island’s East End.
The vote was canceled at the request of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. That agency asked LIPA to wait several weeks until the state releases a comprehensive plan for offshore wind, but few further details emerged.
The delay was reminiscent of an earlier request from New York planners, who in 2015 persuaded the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to delay public listening sessions on potential wind energy leases, while state officials sorted out local concerns on Long Island.
The latest pause dismayed environmental groups who are big backers of offshore wind power, and gave some hope to critics like the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, who say the project will disrupt prime fishing grounds.
The sudden pullback came as New York officials are also looking at other potential wind energy areas around Long Island. In late July Newsday reported that some town officials in the Hamptons – the wealthy East End seaside retreat of New York City’s rich and powerful – told state officials they were worried that turbines even 12 miles south offshore still might affect views from the beach.
That aesthetic objection just incensed fishermen more.
“You don’t want to see it from your front yard, so you want to put it in my front yard?” said Jim Lovgren of the Fisherman’s Dock Cooperative in Point Pleasant Beach, N.J., which is objecting to big BOEM leases in the New York Bight.