Offshore Wind Power Capacity Estimates Rise, Yet Support Seems Weak

by | Nov 13, 2009

OffshoreWindCapacityOffshore wind power development is starting to gain a foothold in the renewable energy industry thanks to several new reports that cite big potential capacity. But first wind proponents need to capture not only the hearts and minds of the U.S. people, but also government agencies, businesses and researchers.

A new report from the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative (USOWC) cites a Department of Energy finding that the United States has the potential to generate 900,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity from its offshore wind resources, reports Energy Central. The study, U.S. Offshore Wind Energy: A Path Forward (PDF), indicates that the only way offshore wind will become a reality is by coordinating efforts among government agencies, universities and businesses.

The study also cites several projects underway including the 468-megawatt (MW) Cape Wind project, proposed for Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound, Massachusetts. Other projects are underway in Delaware, Maryland, North Carolina and the Great Lakes.

NRG Energy is also betting on wind power. The company paid about $10 million for Bluewater Wind, which has the only power purchase agreement (with a unit of Pepco Holdings Inc.) for an offshore wind farm in the U.S., according to MarketWatch.

NRG told MarketWatch that Bluewater’s 450-MW offshore wind project off Delaware’s coast could start producing electricity by late 2013 or early 2014.

With the Power Purchase Agreement NRG can raise financing to build the wind towers, while waiting for final permitting, reports MarketWatch. The power company also told MarketWatch that it plans to apply for the Department of Energy’s loan guarantees under the U.S. stimulus plan.

Another study shows that annual offshore wind resources in the mid-Atlantic region totaled 330 gigawatts or nearly five times the estimated energy use in nine coastal states including Rhode Island, reports Energy Central.

Willett M. Kempton, a professor at the University of Delaware, and one of the study researchers, presented the findings at a recent conference in Rhode Island. He said that Rhode Island and Delaware are ahead of other states in offshore wind turbine installations as well as energy policies, reports Energy Central.

Other attendees at the conference like Daniel Cohen, president of Fishermen’s Energy, doubt there is enough support from society and government to install thousands of turbines offshore, reports Energy Central.

Other challenges cited in the article include the lack of wind turbine manufacturers in the U.S. and tough permitting requirements that can cost a company millions of dollars for analyses and research.

But others like Jim Lanard, managing director of Deepwater Wind, believe offshore wind farms make sense for the Northeast because each offshore turbine can generate 50 percent more electricity than on land, reports Energy Central.

Meanwhile, Mid-Atlantic Governors in Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have agreed to an offshore wind partnership, reports The Gov Monitor.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the states will determine how to coordinate the regional supply chain to secure supply, deployment, operations and maintenance functions to support offshore wind energy facilities, according to the article. The states will also collaborate on strategies for training and workforce development.

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