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.

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.
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.

ACE NY looks forward to having its members take part in realizing the incredible potential for offshore wind. 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.