Editor’s Note — As energy sources become more competitive, the need for renewable energy has grown. CNN’S Liz Kreutz reports on some of the biggest efforts to bring these technologies to the public.
(CNN) – The US Department of Energy has approved a wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island, which would be the largest on the East Coast and the most in more than a decade.
The 80-megawatt North Atlantic Wind Connection project, previously proposed by an Australian firm, will bring up to 2,000 wind turbines to the coast of Block Island to supply electricity to the East Coast, the Energy Department said Monday.
The lease is a big win for Block Island, a rocky island with 11,000 residents and one of the US’s most exclusive tourist destinations. Developers plan to use power from the project to spruce up homes in the community, an effort to reinvigorate the bustling island’s economy after its historic tourism boom faded as the cost of modern airfare increased.
The federal approval is the next hurdle for developers to take the project from a concept to reality. Next up is a construction plan for construction of the terminal in Block Island. The permits were necessary because the State of Rhode Island requires utilities on the East Coast to purchase offshore wind energy.
Block Island Mayor Edward Havard called it “a tremendous day for my town and for all of the people of Rhode Island and the nation.”
“Now we have all the answers — a victory for industry, for Block Island, and for the public interest,” he said in a statement.
Project developers, though, concede the move is a first step.
“We still have a long way to go before the offshore wind project can be constructed, and our demonstration project only represents the first phase of an overall master plan for Block Island,” said David Riggs, director of the North Atlantic Wind Connection, which is owned by the German firm Signal Infrastructure.
There are now nearly 300 wind turbines around the world, which are currently mostly at sea. There is also the development of a 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline in the US Northeast that is designed to allow Massachusetts to use a cheaper fuel, which energy officials say is increasingly accessible.
The capacity of offshore wind farms could double to roughly 10,000 megawatts in the next decade, up from 3,300 megawatts now, according to the Energy Department.
Offshore wind farms in both the United States and Europe have not traditionally been quite as successful.
Wind power has struggled in the US even though many view it as the kind of sustainable energy sources that are becoming more common around the world.
The Energy Department notes that offshore wind may have lower costs compared to power from fossil fuels. It also has the potential to be cleaner and more abundant.
With a total of 315 wind turbines, the federal approval also highlights efforts to expand electricity coming from clean energy sources to the public. The East Coast has yet to see a major wind farm build, although the energy department noted that 11 states are committed to having wind energy supply 10% of their electricity by 2030.
For the current Delaware governor, that target is going to be easily met. In June, Delaware awarded a $600 million wind power contract to Energy Future Holdings, which is now owned by NextEra Energy.