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Deepwater Wind selected Siemens Energy’s 6-megawatt wind turbine for its proposed offshore wind farm near Block Island because the model produces more power than those that have typically been installed elsewhere and, with a direct-drive generator, it is expected to hold up better to ocean conditions.
“We’ve always thought that a smaller number of larger turbines was more important than a larger number of smaller turbines,” William M. Moore, CEO of Providence-based Deepwater, said on Wednesday. “At three miles’ distance I don’t think there’s any perceptible difference between a larger turbine and a medium-sized turbine.”
By using the larger model, Deepwater will have to install only five turbines for the demonstration project proposed within three miles of the southeast side of Block Island rather than the eight turbines that were initially planned. Because the turbines don’t use a gear box, they are also expected to be easier to service at sea.
The new turbine is still in development in Europe, but its hub could rise 360 feet above the water with 190-foot-long blades, according to Thomas Mousten, head of Offshore for the Americas at Siemens Wind Power, who spoke with Moore at a news conference in Baltimore, Md.
He and Moore were in the city to attend the American Wind Energy Association’s annual offshore wind power conference. They answered questions from the media the day after announcing an agreement for Deepwater to buy the 6-megawatt turbines from Siemens.
Deepwater would not disclose how much it is paying for the turbines, which are expected to be installed in 2013 or 2014. However, Jeffrey Grybowski, Deepwater’s chief administrative officer, did say that under a statute signed by then-Gov. Donald L. Carcieri last year, the company must publicly report that and other costs to justify the selling price of the power from the wind farm when it is completed.
Moore called the larger turbine “game-changing technology.”
“It finally symbolizes the fact that the second generation of offshore projects are about to become a reality,” he said.
The Cape Wind project in Massachusetts would be considered a first-generation offshore wind farm under Moore’s definition. That project, which has been in development for a decade, would be in shallow water closer to the Cape Cod shore. It would use 130 3.6-megawatt turbines manufactured by Siemens.
Although Deepwater’s demonstration project would also be relatively close to the Block Island coast, it would be far from the mainland Rhode Island coastline in a bid to minimize concerns over views. A second project of 200 turbines would be located east of Block Island in deep waters at least 18 miles from the mainland coast.
Deepwater has not committed to using the Siemens turbines for the larger project, which would have a 1,000-megawatt capacity and would supply electricity to multiple states in the Northeast.
“It could well be the Siemens 6 if they give us the right price,” Moore said.
The Siemens turbines will be manufactured at one of the company’s plants in Europe, though in which country is uncertain, said Mousten. Siemens will not consider starting manufacturing operations in the United States until more offshore wind farms go into development. Although Cape Wind, Deepwater and other developers in New Jersey and Delaware are working on plans, no offshore wind farm has yet been built in the United States.
Mousten said demand needs to reach 1,000 megawatts of turbines a year for 5 to 10 years before Siemens starts building in this country.
“We still need to see in the U.S. enough support for the industry to happen,” he said.
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