The US poised to launch offshore wind revolution

An offshore wind turbine. Photo credit:
By Anders Lorenzen
When it comes to offshore wind, the US is trailing miles behind Europe, both in terms of installed capacity and upcoming projects, designated sites and know how. This was illustrated perfectly when the first US offshore wind farm, Block Island Wind Farm, was inaugurated last year at a mere 30 megawatts (MW). This compares with the current world’s largest offshore wind farm, UK’s London Array, which has a generating capacity of 630 MW. And new offshore wind projects in the UK surpassing 1 gigawatt (GW) have recently been announced.
But in the States, there are big ambitions to sit alongside the big players in offshore wind power. This resulted in the Obama administration’s and the then Secretary of Energy, Ernest Moniz, recently unveiling a National Offshore Wind Strategy, which he hopes will accelerate deployment (so far there’s nothing to indicate that the new Trump administration will block that strategy). And one of the world’s largest offshore wind developers, the Danish energy company DONG Energy, recently opened an office in Boston, Massachusetts focusing on offshore wind development only.
The strategy, which Moniz announced together with then U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, envisaged that by 2050 an offshore wind capacity of 86 GW was the ambition. And it outlined which actions and innovations were needed to achieve that goal to reduce costs and timelines.
Map detailing US offshore wind potential.
It is symptomatic that the roadmap was unveiled in Boston, which looks likely to be the US capital for offshore wind. Following the strategy announcement, Moniz and Jewell toured Massachusetts` Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center (WTTC). They were joined by the then, White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change, Dan Utech. The WTTC is located in the Charlestown neighbourhood of Boston. It is specifically designed to help the wind industry test the next generation of land-based and offshore wind turbine blades. The state recently passed an ambitious energy bill that requires utilities to get 1.6 GW of their electricity from offshore wind by 2027.
While it might not look that way so far, Moniz stressed that offshore wind has progressed during Obama’s years in office: “offshore wind has experienced enormous progress during the Obama administration. The first offshore wind farm has now finished construction, and we have gone from zero offshore wind areas leased before this administration to eleven areas that total the size of Rhode Island. Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment, and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix.”
The strategy focuses on these 3 key areas: 1) reducing technical costs and risks, 2) supporting effective stewardship and 3)improving the market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy.
The report estimates that by 2050 the US offshore wind industry would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

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