Clean Technologies - Wind Power

Offshore Wind

Until recently, the offshore wind energy potential in the United States was ignored because vast on-shore wind resources have the potential to fulfill the electrical energy needs of the entire nation. But with major offshore wind resources close to high electricity demand areas and the higher capacity of offshore wind turbines, combined with a proven record of success in Europe, offshore wind energy is quickly becoming a more attractive option.

According to the U.S. Offshore Wind Collaborative, as of August 2010 eighteen states have offshore wind initiatives or proposed projects under development. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that 28 of the lower 48 states have a coastal boundary (including the Great Lakes), and that offshore wind turbines located in shallow waters (defined as less than 30 meters) could meet at least 20% of the electricity needs in many of these coastal states.

Benefits of Offshore Wind

In addition to helping coastal populations meet increasing electricity demand, offshore wind development will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of domestic jobs.

Benefits of offshore wind farms include the following:
  • Offshore wind has the ability to generate electricity near fast-growing population centers.
  • Large continuous areas of open water are suitable for major projects, and in many cases are the best option for large-scale renewable energy development where there is limited opportunity for land development.
  • Offshore wind farms can generate more power than on-shore turbines since wind speeds are generally higher and wind is steadier.
  • Winds are less turbulent offshore, which allows turbines to harvest energy more effectively and have reduced fatigue loads.
  • Offshore winds also have lower wind shear (the boundary layer of slower moving wind close to the surface is thinner), thus allowing the use of shorter towers.
  • Offshore turbines can generate energy during times of high electricity use thanks to the "sea breeze effect."
  • Offshore wind farms can result in significant avoided costs in terms of reducing, delaying or avoiding expensive upgrades to on-shore transmission infrastructure, and in helping to meet mandates or policy goals requiring the sourcing of renewable energy by a certain date (state RPS goals or a potential national RES).
Additionally, economic opportunities abound when it comes to the future of offshore wind in the U.S. Requirements such as highly specialized installation facilities and vessels, unique turbine components, specialized research focus, and professional and technical experience are not yet present in the North American workforce skill set. All of these unique requirements represent an economic opportunity for job creation, ranging from research, design and manufacturing to operations and maintenance.

From an environmental perspective, offshore turbines also have limited impacts:
  • They are compatible with existing uses like recreational fishing, as they can continue among turbines.
  • Foundations can create artificial reefs.
  • Extensive studies at European sites have revealed no significant bird impacts and that, for the most part, birds avoid wind farms.
Highlights and Current Projects
Until recently there were no regulations or guidelines for establishing and operating offshore wind energy projects in federal waters. This situation was addressed in April 2009, when the federal government, through the former Minerals Management Service, issued its final rule for developing alternative energy sources on the Outer Continental Shelf. The rule was an important step forward in allowing proposed offshore wind projects to move ahead with development.

In June 2009, the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) awarded 5 exploratory leases for offshore wind site testing off the coasts of Delaware and New Jersey. Click here for more information from BOEM on the current status of U.S. offshore wind projects.

The offshore wind industry is still in its infancy and faces significant challenges to growth, mainly due to the additional capital investment necessary relating to higher construction costs. As such it is essential to support research and development designed to lower costs and increase reliability.

In order to move forward successfully, the industry will need to strike a viable balance between technological and economic challenges, while at the same time regulatory bodies will need to continue developing a streamlined approach to project evaluation.

NYS Offshore Wind Case Study by Camoin Associates and AWS Truepower

(As discussed in the Offshore Wind supplement of North American Windpower's October 2010 issue.)

The good news is that the benefits of offshore wind energy will significantly outweigh the current challenges. Camoin Associates and AWS Truepower have developed a case study for a hypothetical offshore wind cluster in New York State which uses the assumptions that, over the next 10 years, New York captures 10% of the likely U.S. demand for manufactured offshore wind components, hosts the construction of one installation vessel, and is awarded research grants to study offshore-specific topics.

Annualized, the input would represent $235 million of direct economic activity each year on average. Results also say that the assumptions used from the case study would mean 670 new jobs and $45 million in wages to be paid in the various associated industry categories. A further 880 jobs would be indirectly created through the multiplier effect from purchases made by component manufacturers and from wages spent locally by employees.

Overall, the impact would be 1,549 jobs and almost $100 million in wages, and nearly $375 million in total economic activity.

ACE NY looks forward to having its members take part in realizing this incredible potential. We invite you to browse the Links and Resources sidebar to learn more about New York's current offshore wind energy projects, as well as offshore wind energy in the U.S. and abroad.