Is It Anchors Aweigh for Wind Power?

by | Dec 10, 2015

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Energy Manage Offshore wind farmThe opposition to wind power – which Energy Manager Today looked at on Monday – focuses on noise, fear of health impacts and the unsightliness of towers. Those objections largely can be neutralized by simply moving the towers to where nobody is — such as in huge bodies of water.

There is a significant worldwide offshore wind market. MAKE Consulting said that during 2015 it is expected that 3.6 GW of offshore wind capacity will be added to the global total, which will stand at 12.4 GW, according to a report on the study at North American Windpower. MAKE’s assessments pointed to an expected slowdown next year. Over the 2015 to 2024 period, however, the category will enjoy a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 percent. Europe and China will be the areas of greatest growth.

The interesting thing is that until now, the United States has not been part of the market. Today in Energy provided insight into why the category has not gotten traction in this market. There is a lot of red tape and agita: Cape Wind, which was to be built off the coast of Massachusetts, was cancelled due to development delays and litigation. Two projects – the Virginia Offshore Wind Technology Advancement Project and Fisherman’s Energy Wind in New Jersey – “have faced development hurdles despite making significant progress in project development,” the story said.

MAKE Senior Consultant Michael Guldbrandtsen said that the sector has a hard road in the United States. “Generally, offshore wind in the US still faces tough competition from other energy sources, such as onshore wind, natural gas and solar power,” he wrote in response to questioned emailed by Energy Manager Today. “Political support and incentives have not been sufficiently strong to boost offshore wind.”

Despite the issues, the United States seems poised to get more deeply into the game. For instance, Deepwater Wind is building the Block Island Wind Farm, which it says is the first wind farm off the U.S. coast. “This project is a unique example where the economics and the federal investment tax credit were sufficient to justify the project’s costs,” Guldbrandtsen wrote.

This week, Deepwater Wind made two announcements. The first is that the last deck platform on the project was installed on November 21. That, the release said, wrapped up its first construction season. The company also said that it is proposing a 90 MW, 15-turbine windfarm about 30 miles southeast of Montauk, NY. The Deepwater ONE-South Fork proposal includes onshore battery storage facilities. The facilities – built in conjunction with General Electric – will be in Montauk and Wainscott. The facilities, which will be operational in 2018, will cumulatively store 15 MW of energy, the release said.

At least one major project is far away from the ocean. The Cleveland Plain Dealer reported this week that Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo) has gained the support of Fred.Olsen Renewables, a company from the United Kingdom with wind farm experience in the North Sea. Fred.Olsen, which will build the $120 million project, has an existing relationship with LEEDCo. The goal is to build a six-turbine plant — capable of generating about 20 MW of electricity — eight to 10 miles from downtown Cleveland.

Oregon Live Oregon Building Trades Council Executive Secretary John Mohlis and Vigor Sales Manager Brian Akin voiced support for WindFloat Pacific Project in an op-ed at Oregon Live. They write that the demonstration project would be the country’s first floating offshore wind farm.

The piece looks at the positive economic impact in Europe and concludes that it is time to bring the technology here.

It’s our turn to reap the jobs, economic and clean energy benefits of offshore wind. The federal government understands this, which is why the Department of Energy is putting real resources behind bringing offshore wind to the United States. Now Oregon must do its part to commit, so we can bring that investment and the associated jobs home to our state, for our workers, our energy needs, and our future.

Off shore wind seems likely to be at a crossroads for the next few years. Nothing seems guaranteed, though MAKE’s Guldbrandtsen thinks the category will grow. “The US market is still very fragile. Much depends on what happens after the next presidential election,” he wrote. “Apart from the federal tax credit, grant funding from the Department of Energy, and president Obama’s Clean Power Plan are key drivers. Based on status quo policies at the federal and state level, our long-term outlook assumes 1.4GW installed capacity by the end of 2024, with the first projects larger than 100MW to come online after 2020.”


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