According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the United States has the capacity to generate 54 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. This capacity can sufficiently power 42 million households and add $200 billion in economic activity, as well as more than 43,000 new jobs. Offshore wind is decidedly the wave of the future, no pun intended. But the industry is facing substantial roadblocks in the U.S.
Of our states, 11 hold state implementation and development plans. With so many plans in the works, one would surmise that the United States would be at the forefront of Offshore Wind Development. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Currently, the United States has not developed a single commercial-scale operational wind farm. With 53% of the population located in close proximity to coastal counties, what’s the holdup?
It is true that the offshore wind farms encounter significant setbacks due to high energy costs, technical challenges associated with project installation and grid interconnection, however, the United States can overcome this. To deal with these obstacles, the United States Department of Energy’s Wind Program funds research throughout the nation. This pertains to the development and deployment of offshore wind. They function to deal with major hindrances that face the offshore wind industry such as demonstration projects, portfolio of market analysis and technology development.
To see the potential of offshore wind energy, we need only look across the pond to the U.K.
The London Array is "the world’s largest functioning wind farm." This amazing feat generates enough electricity to power almost half a million homes. But it’s not just the U.K taking advantage of offshore wind energy. The chart below demonstrates the international strength of the offshore wind industry.
Figure 1. Offshore wind farm chart containing 13 offshore wind generating countries along with cumulative MW produced from each farm (Information received from Global Wind 2012 report, reproduced by Jenny Frank)
Despite the potential of the offshore wind energy industry in the U.S., all of these nations have surpassed us in capacity.
It must be noted that the United States does have an offshore wind farm in the works. Cape Wind in Massachusetts (in the works since 2001) has already signed long term Power Purchase Agreements with Massachusetts’ two largest electric utilities, National Grid and NSTAR.
Even with the support of Governor Patrick of Massachusetts, the Department of the Interior, the EPA, 107 members of the Massachusetts Senate, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the project has still run into obstacles, mostly in the form of lawsuits from fossil fuel interests. Offshore wind energy is clean, sustainable, and affordable. It’s a shame that fossil fuel interests have used the courts to delay the industry here at home, thus allowing other nations to ramp up offshore wind energy development and reap the jobs, economic benefits, and reliable electricity that come with it.