Farming Wind

Wind power is one of the staples of renewable energy. Next to solar power, building wind farms is the second most popular alternative energy that whole countries are investing in. This is why it is so puzzling that the US still has something missing in the wind energy sector.

Deepwater Wind is partnering with General Electric Renewable Energy to build what is the first offshore wind farm in the United States. The wind farm is being built off the coast of Block Island, in Rhode Island.

The construction of the Block Island Wind Farm has actually entered its final stage, with workers already installing the blades on the wind turbines. After that, they will go through commissioning and then finally be in commercial operations.

The wind farm has an expected total capacity of 30 MW. When hooked to the grid by the end of 2016, it is expected to produce 125,000 MWh of electricity per year. This is enough to supply electric power to 17,000 households.

Tackling Challenges

Despite the fact that it is nearing completion, designing and building the wind farm has not been without its challenges. One of the most persistent is, surprisingly, wind. The wind turbines have blades more than 75 meters (250 ft) long; together, the tips are more than 150 m (500 ft) apart. That means wind conditions above may not be the same below. Wind speed may start getting too fast or change direction.

For these times, the wind turbine is set to lock the blade's rotors so that they do not spin too fast or chaotically. At that point, the turbine is stopped and the whole machine is set on standby. This is also the setup for when temperatures dip below -10°C (14°F).

Another problem is that the wind may start toppling the turbines and knock them down. To address that, a narrow foundation 60 m (200 feet) below each turbine has been dug and each is anchored directly to the seafloor.

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