This is not your typical offshore manufacturing. No, this is, quite literally, offshore manufacturing. When GE’s new wind farm installation, far off the coast of Rhode Island, is completed late next year, it will generate 30 megawatts of electricity—enough to supply power to nearby Block Island and eliminate 150,000 cars’ worth of carbon pollution every year. Upon completion, it will be the first of America’s hopefully-soon-to-be-many offshore wind farms.
Why is It Called “Deepwater Wind”?
Acquired as part of General Electric’s recent Alstom deal, a company called Deepwater Wind has been tasked with installing the five mighty wind turbines that will comprise the wind farm. The turbines’ blade tips will reach 600 feet above the surface of the Atlantic—twice the height of the Statue of Liberty. The three-blade rotors alone have a diameter of over 150 meters.
Those gargantuan rotors will spin GE’s groundbreaking Haliade turbines, which feature direct-drive permanent magnet generators that completely eliminate the need for a gearbox, which in turn reducing the number of moving parts, reduces maintenance requirements, and significantly lowers operating costs. Each turbine will produce six megawatts of power.
The turbines also feature failsafe electrical circuit engineering that allows them to continue operating at reduced capacity, even if two of the three separate circuits should fail. This is key not just for continued productivity, but also for maintenance purposes, as the wind farm’s remote location and often harsh environment can delay repair work.
A Drop in the Bucket
The Block Island installation’s 30 megawatt production capacity is a mere fraction of the potential offshore wind energy that could be harnessed in the near future. The US Department of Energy estimates that over 4,000 gigawatts of electricity—enough to send Marty McFly back to the future well over three thousand times, and more than quadruple America’s current annual electricity output—could be generated by offshore wind turbines.
“Offshore power [could] power much of the US East Coast,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, a chief executive with Deepwater Wind. “Not least in the Northeast, where wind is strong and we need energy.”
The new wind farm and the highly efficient Haliade turbines will put the United States at the forefront of the renewable energy industry for the first time, thanks to the potent combination of GE’s state-of-the-art power generation technology and Alstom’s wind turbines. Said Bryan Martin, head of US private equity for DE Shaw, the financial firm behind the $290 million wind farm project, “GE and Alstom getting together creates the first real competitor to Siemens,” Europe’s—and the world’s—current leader in offshore wind farm technology.
Though the Block Island installation is America’s first offshore wind farm, there are over 47,000 wind turbines installed across the United States. A good many of those are owned and operated by GE and were built by Alstom, pre-GE deal.