Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Farm officially began generating electricity on Dec. 12. The wind farm off the coast of Block Island, R.I., is the first of its kind in the United States and already generates enough electricity to supply 17,000 average homes, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).

In addition, the Block Island Wind Farm will keep electricity costs down on Block Island itself by displacing diesel generators. The hope is this project can set an example for other wind projects in the United States.

“This is a triumph for the American worker and U.S. energy independence, and it’s just the beginning,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO, AWEA. “Offshore wind presents a unique opportunity for additional U.S. ocean energy development. Scaling up will create well-paying American jobs and drive private investment to strengthen our infrastructure.”

A 2012 technical report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates a gross wind power resource of 4,223 gigawatts (GW) off the U.S. coast; about four times the generating capacity of the country’s current electric grid. This suggests that a great deal of the United States’ electricity needs could be met through wind energy even if the country develops a fraction of this potential.

According to the AWEA, there are several wind projects in development that could come online before 2030. These projects are underway on both coasts, as well as in the Great Lakes region. As the offshore wind industry continues to grow, thousands of U.S. workers will be employed to manufacture, construct and service these wind farms.

Among the many positives of offshore wind energy is the fact that offshore winds are often strongest in the afternoons, which is typically a period of high energy demand. Coastal states also usually have high energy rates, so investing in these projects could go a long way toward relieving that burden.                              

The wind farm has had other positive effects for local residents as well; fisherman are reporting the turbines are acting as artificial reefs.

“We’ve jumpstarted a new energy industry here in the U.S. with tremendous support of the Block Island community, state and federal officials, and a number of U.S. supply chain partners who see offshore wind as a new opportunity for their business,” said Jeffrey Grybowski, CEO, Deepwater Wind. “The Block Island Wind Farm is just the start of a new energy future for the U.S.”