From a row of computers in uptown Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy technicians will provide round-the-clock monitoring and control services for Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, the first offshore wind farm in the United States.
Block Island Wind Farm is about 3 miles off the coast of its namesake island, a popular vacation spot. Offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind spent roughly $300 million to build the project. Making the floating wind farm a reality took some creative engineering and a police escort. The five Haliade turbines, constructed and installed by GE Renewable Energy, tower 330 feet above the Atlantic Ocean—just taller than the Statue of Liberty. Each turbine has three 27-ton, 240-foot-long blades.
In addition to their size, GE said the turbines yield 15 percent more power than existing offshore wind turbines. When Block Island starts operating in November, GE estimates the 30 megawatt wind farm will provide enough energy to serve 90 percent of the island’s population, which can swell to 20,000 people in the summer.
Duke Energy’s Renewable Control Center monitors wind and solar plants in more than 15 states, from Florida to California. Technicians are able to collect data that helps them optimize efficiency and increase the turbines’ availability to produce energy. The data can also inform technicians about potential equipment faults that can, in many cases, be corrected remotely, saving mechanics a boat trip.