Stuff that matters

A bad turn

The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. is about to go online, despite a malfunctioning turbine.

One of the five newly installed turbines off the shore of Block Island, Rhode Island, will be late getting spinning because someone at the General Electric factory in Saint-Nazaire, France, left a six-inch drill bit inside it, which damaged critical magnets.

Fortunately, the turbine is still under warranty, so it’s GE’s responsibility to pay for floating new 60-pound magnets out to the broken turbine, hoisting them 330 feet into the air, and repairing the turbine’s generator.

The Block Island Wind Farm is noteworthy not because offshore wind is new (Europeans have been doing it since the ’90s), but because, as the first such installation in the U.S., it could herald a whole lot of offshore wind development along the Atlantic coast. The region is a significant user of coal, oil, and natural gas, but it’s geologically well-suited for offshore wind and many of its residents and leaders are motivated to switch to clean energy by the already-visible effects of sea-level rise.

Block Island has been getting its electricity from diesel generators, but now it will be able to ditch them (except for one it’ll keep for backup). Three other offshore wind projects in the region are already in the works.