Block Island and Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Farms

Block Island Offshore Wind Farm

Block Island and Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Farms

Environmental Monitoring for the First Offshore Wind Energy Farms in the US

Off the United States’ Atlantic coastline, development is underway for the nation’s first offshore wind energy farms. Block Island Wind Farm and Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind Farm generate enough power to serve 20,000 households, and plans call for much larger build-outs. At the wind farms, the Real-Time Opportunity for Development Environmental Observations program captures independent observations of the impacts associated with construction and initial operation. We are developing and implementing environmental monitoring protocols for the program to help the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management accurately characterize potential impacts.

BIWF, located off Rhode Island, is a pilot facility with five turbines that generate 30 megawatts of power. It started operations in December 2016, supplying approximately 125 gigawatt-hours of clean power per year — enough electricity for 17,000 households. The facility is expected to serve as the building block for a $1.5 billion, 385-megawatt wind farm in federal waters, which will extend into neighboring Massachusetts. When complete, the 100-turbine project is expected to provide 1.3 terawatt-hours of power per year — 15% of all electricity used in Rhode Island.

CVOW is the second offshore wind farm constructed in the U.S. It features two turbines and generates 12 megawatts of power. The pilot facility started operation in September 2020, and it is expected to generate enough electricity for 3,000 households. When fully constructed in 2026, the CVOW project is expected to deliver up to 8.8 million megawatt-hours of clean power per year.

At both sites, we are using state-of-the-art monitoring protocols and equipment and remotely operated vessels to gather data on noise propagation, alterations in ocean floor characteristics, benthic community abundance and diversity, and turbine epifouling as a result of the wind farms’ construction and operation. Insights gained from the data analyses are being used to help identify, reduce and mitigate environmental risks in the future, significantly increasing the efficiency and efficacy of BOEM’s regulatory review process for offshore wind development in the U.S.

Block Island Offshore Wind Farm
U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

Block Island, RI & Virginia Beach, VA,
United States