Winds of change offshore US?

May 10, 2016

American offshore wind has for too long been overshadowed by the long-delayed Cape Wind project, but the winds of change might finally be blowing. 

Cape Wind, is a 130 turbine, 3.6MW offshore wind park planned for off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But, it has been struggling to get off the ground for some 15 years, says Stephanie McClellan, Director, Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, University of Delaware. 

“People generally associated US offshore wind with that project,” she says, “that it cannot get off the ground. However, it can and will and is. Block Island [a wind farm off Rhode Island] started construction last year and will become operational in 2016. This will move us past the perception you cannot build offshore wind in the States,” McClellan told the All Energy conference and exhibition in Glasgow last week. 

Most of the activity is in the Bos-Wash, or Boston Washington, corridor, McClellan says, and, thanks to policies in those areas, a market comprising some 3-5GW potential is expected to become available in the next year or so. 

There areas for offshore wind parks tend to be 10-15mi offshore, McClellan says, with 8.5-9m/sec wind speed in 30-40m water depth. 

It isn’t simple. Federal government is responsible for leasing site, while individual states approve power contracts. But it is happening. 

New York state and Massachusetts in particular are taking the initiative in offshore wind. Massachusetts has set policy goal of 50% renewables for the entire electricity load of the state by 2030, says McClellan. “They have acknowledged they cannot do this without offshore wind,” she says. 

Indeed, the most prominent move towards offshore wind is being made in the Bay State, Massachusetts, says McClellan. 

Last January, an auction for leases was held with Denmark’s DONG Energy and German firm OffshoreMW, both of which have already built wind parks in Europe, as well as US firm Deepwater Wind, taking leases. Deepwater Wind is the company behind the Block Island offshore wind park – the US' first offshore wind farm, construction on which started last year off Rhode Island.  

Meanwhile, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio wants 100% of city government electricity from renewable electricity by 2050, and it has been accepted this will not be possible without offshore wind. To put the goal into perspective, New York City’s government uses more electricity than the whole state of Delaware, says McClellan. 

Furthermore, there has been somewhere between 1.3-2GW mandated of offshore wind that utilities will need to purchase under a Bill to be passed in July, says McClellan. The State of New York is also leading a project which aims to get various states to work together to help reduce the cost of offshore wind. 



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