Deepwater Wind is installing the first offshore wind power turbines in Rhode Island, the smallest state in the United States. Equipped with 80 meter-long blades, the five 6-megawatt wind turbines are expected to power homes in Block Island, where electricity bills are the highest in the country. Having received a $290M financial boost last year, Deepwater Wind entered a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement with the National Grid to acquire the power company that supplies power to Rhode Island. The Rhode Island scenario is not an isolated case; by the end of 2015, the US had installed about 74GW of wind power, which was enough electricity to cater for 20 million homes.
The Cheapest Electricity Around
Wind energy, that is windmills and wind turbines, is one of the sources of cheap non-polluting electricity in the US. As of March 2016, onshore wind accounted for 48% of the electricity used in Texas. It is not much different in Europe, where more than 3,200 turbines have been set up to produce more than 11GW of electricity. China has tapped into this cheap form of electricity by constructing hundreds of wind turbines. Further afield, Denmark produces 140% of her demand for electricity, forcing her to export some to neighboring countries. In the US, more than 48,000 wind turbines are churning out about 5% of the total energy consumed. On the global front, a total of more than 430GW are being produced and 12 of them are offshore. However, most of the wind power comes from Europe where massive resources have been invested into wind energy.
The Challenges of Wind Power
A major setback of wind power is that it cannot be switched on and off as necessary. This leads to power wastages especially when the technology is not in use. In addition, wind, being an element of weather, is usually quite unpredictable. Due to this, wind turbines operate on a less predictable schedule compared to other forms of energy. Moreover, the distribution of wind power resources is not even across the country as companies tend to locate them along coastlines. Consequently, most homes and installations do not have access to wind energy.
Solutions To The Challenges
The unpredictability of wind power has not stopped companies from investing in wind. Google, for example, has bought into more than 13 different wind farms. To tackle the challenges of wind power, the Department of Energy is striving to develop High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) power transmission lines to carry electric over long distances with low attenuation. To this effect, the Department of Energy has approved a $2.5 billion Plains & Eastern Clean Line Project to convey wind energy amounting to 4GW from Oklahoma Panhandle to Tennessee, Arkansas and other southeastern parts of the US. To reach these parts of the country, the power line will stretch for about 705 miles.
Deepwater Wind has a much bigger project in the pipeline: A massive 90MW turbine installation 30 miles out of South Fork of Long Island. The company plans to install a total of 15 turbines to help harness the power of wind and produce electricity.Construction is expected to commence in 2019 while completion could be achieved in 2022.