U.S. Offshore Wind Potential

The United States has vast offshore wind power potential.  Yet despite the potential to produce clean, cost-effective electricity, huge challenges remain to commercial deployment.  However, some progress is already being made toward developing an offshore wind power industry.

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The United States has vast offshore wind power potential. According to Wind Powering America, an initiative of the U.S. Department of Energy, Atlantic offshore wind has the potential to deliver 18 times more power than Atlantic offshore oil.1

  • The Department of Energy has devised a Strategic Work Plan and intends to deploy 54 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 with a kilowatt-hour range of 7 to 9 cents.2
  • According to the Department of Energy, “offshore winds blow stronger and more uniformly than on land, resulting in greater potential generation.”3
  • Another advantage of offshore winds is that they blow more frequently and strongly during peak demand,4 and would mitigate the need for costlier backup generation.
  • And because electricity along the coasts is so costly, offshore wind is expected to become competitive with fossil fuels relatively quickly.5
  • Offshore wind can also help coastal states without significant renewable resources meet their renewable portfolio standards or goals.6
  • Reaching the goal of 54 gigawatts would create an estimated 43,000 permanent operations and management jobs.7

Despite the potential to produce clean, cost-effective electricity, huge challenges remain to commercial deployment:

  • The cost of offshore wind energy will need to drop by 50 percent for it to be a viable option.8 This will require increased market penetration and public acceptance as well as improved technology.
  • In addition, the resource is not well-defined. That is, it is important to better understand where the wind blows best; ports will need to be expanded in order to handle huge turbines and the vessels that transport them; and job-specific marine vessels will need to be built.9
  • Finally, the project approval and siting process will need to be streamlined. Project approvals currently take seven to 10 years.10 This will require greater state and federal cooperation.

However, some progress is already being made toward developing an offshore wind power industry:

  • Five gigawatts of offshore wind power have been proposed for Maine by 2020.11
  • Google recently agreed to spend $200 million on a transmission system for offshore wind along the Mid-Atlantic coast12 that would collect electricity at four points, reduce congestion of the region’s grid and simplify the siting process.
  • Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar recently signed the nation’s first offshore wind power lease at Cape Wind, off the coast of Massachusetts’ Cape Cod, paving the way for the initial steps in the development of a U.S. offshore wind power industry.13

 

References:

1 Kempton, Willett. “Offshore Wind Power.” Slide 19. May 27, 2010. 
2 U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Wind & Water Power Program. “Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States: A Strategic Work Plan for the United States Department of Energy.” September 22, 2010. P. 7.
3 DOE, 9.
4 DOE, 11.
5 DOE, 11.
6 DOE, 11.
7 DOE, 12.
8 DOE, 13.
9 DOE, 13.
10 DOE, 14.
11 DOE, 16, and Dagher. “Comprehensive Energy Plan for Maine: 5 GW of Offshore Wind by 2020.” 
12 Wald, Matthew. “Offshore Wind Power Line Wins Praise, and Backing.” New York Times. October 12, 2010. 
13 U.S. Department of Interior. “Salazar Signs First U.S. Offshore Commercial Wind Energy Lease with Cape Wind Associates, LLC.” October 6, 2010. 

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