Smooth Sailing for Offshore Wind?
By Peter Galuszka
The temperamental waters off Rhode Island’s Block Island may be known for the Pequod and other Moby Dick-style whaling ships, but soon they could become notable for something else.
If all goes as planned, Deepwater Wind, a Providence, R.I.-based energy firm, could become the first company to start construction of a wind turbine farm off of the East Coast. By the end of this year, five turbines, each nearly as tall as the Washington Monument, could start taking shape about 3 miles off craggy Block Island and some 18 miles from the mainland.
The goal, says Jeff Grybowski, Deepwater Wind’s chief executive, is to demonstrate to the financial community that offshore wind is “doable.” That is the key word. While coastal waters of state-subsidy-rich Western Europe are chock-a-block with wind turbines, offshore wind energy in this country is still waiting for the first breeze.
High costs, infuriatingly complex regulatory approvals, a lack of government financial support, and environmental opposition have badly impeded what otherwise may seem an obvious and attractive alternative to fossil fuel and nuclear power. Offshore wind gives off little or no pollution and contributes next to nothing to global warming. Its chief drawback is that it can be a hazard to migratory birds—that, and the worry that wind turbines can ruin spectators’ sea views.
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