Will Offshore Wind Soon Play a Key Role in America’s Clean Energy Future?

Offshore wind energy is becoming more and more enticing thanks to improved technology and bigger, more stable turbines that are less susceptible to breaking down. In fact, technology has improved so much in recent years that the turbines installed in the ocean today can generate up to three times the energy of turbines that are only five years old.

What Makes Offshore Wind So Appealing?

Technology aside, what makes offshore wind so appealing? Science reveals that ocean winds blow harder and more consistently than winds across land. Because higher wind speeds can produce a much greater volume of electricity, developers are becoming more and more interested in pursuing offshore wind resources.

Here’s why:

  • Plentiful resources — offshore wind is capable of delivering large amounts of sustainable energy that can meet the electricity needs of towns and large metropolitan areas along the coastline. The DOE estimates that the resource potential for offshore wind energy is about 2,000 gigawatts (GW) of capacity – nearly double America’s total current electricity usage.
  • Larger turbine capabilities – Because they’re transported by barges and ships, offshore wind components can be built much larger than wind turbines on land. Over the past three years, turbines have become bigger (think blade length as long as a football field) and towers have become taller thanks to advances in technology. This means that offshore turbines can generate considerably more electricity, while performing better under the forces of strong ocean winds.
  • Close proximity to many Americans – Almost 80 percent of America’s electricity demands occur along the crowded coastal cities and Great Lakes states. Therefore, offshore wind farms can provide power to hundreds of thousands of customers, using shorter transmission lines than may other sources of grid-tied electricity.
  • Less of an Eyesore – advances in construction are helping wind farms be erected in deeper water, and further off the shore. Even with the larger sizes, these wind turbines are creating less of an “eyesore” from the public, and reducing the amount of pushback from the NIMBY crowd.

As of mid-2019, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) reports that the only offshore wind project currently online is a 30-megawatt wind farm off the shores of Rhode Island called Block Island Wind Farm. It began operating in 2016.

There are roughly 30 offshore wind projects in different stages of development across the United States. These labor-intensive projects take years to complete. Aside from the huge expense – offshore wind farms cost about 50 percent more to build than land-based facilities – logistics can also be challenging. For instance, the contours of the Atlantic Ocean make it difficult to transport electrons through transmission lines back to the shore.

Offshore Wind Forecast in the U.S.

The global research and consulting group Wood MacKenzie Power & Renewables conducts quarterly reports on the wind power market outlook. Their market research anticipates that more than 680 GW of new wind power capacity will come online across the globe in the next decade, most of it being offshore wind. In the U.S., the group anticipates that by the end of 2027, the U.S. will have about 10 GW of offshore wind installed which will account for 15 percent of all new capacity from 2018 to the end of 2027.

But we can expect more offshore wind projects to come online before that.

In its mid-2018 offshore wind energy update, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) reveals that the U.S. has a total project pipeline of more than 25,400 MW of offshore wind capacity – about 2,000 MW of that should be operational by 2023.

Job Creation Along Coastal Communities

By harnessing our nation’s offshore wind resources, the wind industry can create tens of thousands of highly-skilled jobs. Because these jobs are located along the coast, offshore wind has the power to revitalize coastal communities while delivering large volumes of clean, renewable power to some of America’s most heavily populated areas.

A study conducted by Rhode Island, New York, Massachusetts and the Clean Energy States Alliance found that over the next 10 years,  if the U.S. installs 8 GW of offshore wind along the northeast coast, from Maine to Maryland, it would lead to more than 36,000 full-time jobs.

In New York alone, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has committed to building two offshore wind projects totaling 1,700 MW and creating more than 1,600 jobs.  

With world-class wind resources on both coastlines, along with the Great Lakes region, the U.S. is poised for explosive offshore wind growth in the coming years. With advances in construction and technology, and costs that are starting to decline, offshore wind farms will likely become a common sight along our nation’s coastlines.

If you’re interested in a career in the wind industry, create your free professional profile on Clean Energy Jobs List today, and start searching the opportunities near you.

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