A turning point for offshore wind energy?
Cape Wind is probably the most famous wind farm in the United States, which is especially telling because it doesn’t exist. Its planned 130 turbines in Massachusetts’ Nantucket Sound have been controversial enough to receive national attention — both supporting and opposing the project — ever since developers announced it in 2001. After years of legal wrangling, community protests and regulatory hoop jumping, its future is still uncertain. Cape Wind’s promoters refer to it as “America’s first offshore wind farm,” yet not a single turbine has been erected.
Meanwhile, this summer, two tugboats quietly hauled the first working offshore-wind turbine in the United States into place off the coast of Maine. Designed by the Advanced Structures and Composites Center at the University of Maine, the turbine is 65 feet high and painted bright yellow. Built 28 miles inland in Brewer, Maine, then towed down the Penobscot River, it currently floats in the blue waters off a small town called Castine, where the river meets the Atlantic Ocean. The university named its turbine VolturnUS, adapted from Vulturnus, the Roman god of the east wind, to combine the terms “volt,” “turn” and “U.S.” In June the university held a ceremony connecting the turbine to the U.S. power grid, with luminaries joining their voices in a sci-fi-inflected shout: “Energize, VolturnUS!”