Despite encountering recent financial difficulties, the US offshore wind sector has achieved a significant breakthrough.  A towering turbine, standing at 800 feet, is now supplying electricity to the grid from a commercial-scale offshore wind farm.

The turbine is part of the South Fork wind farm, located 35 miles off the eastern tip of Long Island. South Fork is the first commercial-scale offshore wind farm in US history.

The South Fork wind project

On Wednesday, Danish wind energy developer Ørsted and utility company Eversource jointly declared the initial generation of electricity from South Fork.

Currently, two out of the eleven 11-megawatt turbines are operational. The second turbine is undergoing testing before it begins producing power.

Once all nine remaining turbines are operational, South Fork will have the capacity to generate 132 megawatts of offshore wind energy. This will provide electricity to over 70,000 households, according to PBS.

Offshore wind in the United States

For the past thirty years, Europe and Asia have been successfully operating large offshore wind farms to generate electricity. In Denmark, offshore wind meets approximately 25% of the country’s entire electricity demand.

In the United States, however, offshore wind has failed to take off.

Rhode Island’s Block Island, with its five turbines, is currently the only operating wind farm in the US. However, it’s not on a commercial scale.

Nevertheless, there are two commercial offshore wind farms under construction: South Fork Wind and Vineyard Wind. Vineyard Wind, located 15 miles off the coast of Massachusetts, is expected to start generating power by the end of the year.

The development of the offshore wind industry in the United States is seen as a significant step towards reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuels and addressing climate change. The Biden administration’s goal is to power 10 million homes with offshore wind energy by 2030 and establish a carbon-free electric grid five years later.

The US has over 4,000 GW of offshore wind potential. This is enough to supply up to 25% of the nation’s electricity demand by 2050.

The benefits of offshore wind

Although offshore wind prices have come up recently, experts expect this to be a temporary phenomenon.

In the long term, offshore wind offers consumers substantial price savings. Since offshore wind contracts are locked in for long periods at fixed prices, energy costs don’t fluctuate in the same way that they do for fossil fuels.

In Maryland alone, offshore wind is forecast to cut consumers’ energy bills by $5 billion between now and 2032.

Image Source: Ørsted U.S.