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Unlocking the Potential of Offshore Wind Energy

Big Picture 


Offshore wind is a growing source of renewable energy in the United States. It can supplement energy from solar sources by generating power in the evening. Recent technology has sought to harvest more energy from ocean winds through offshore wind turbines. This technology needs significantly more investment and support in order to provide sufficient energy to our coastal and Great Lakes regions.


Graphic From: Wind Energy Technologies Office, Wind Market Reports: 2021 Edition. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-market-reports-2021-edition. This figure illustrates the offshore wind energy projects currently in the development pipeline, stacked by their power capacity. The colors represent different states — some of the largest projects are in New York (dark blue), New Jersey (yellow) and Massachusetts (dark green). In 2021, Rhode Island was the only state with installed offshore wind turbines generating 0.03 gigawatts of power. In 2021, Massachusetts began construction on 0.8 gigawatts of offshore wind power near the island of Martha’s Vineyard which is scheduled to begin operating in 2023.


Operative Definitions


  1. Independent System Operator (ISO): An independent, often regional grid operator that regulates how and where the electric grid connects to customers.


Important Facts and Statistics


  1. In 2022, a record-setting land lease off the coast of New Jersey brought in $4.3 billion for six leases to develop offshore wind farms.

  2. From 2021 to 2022, the amount of planned capacity for offshore wind construction has grown by 24% to 35 gigawatts.

  3. Sixty percent of offshore wind resources are in deep-water areas where the ocean floor is 200 feet (60 meters) from the surface.


Five-Point Plan


(1) Increase the number of leases available for offshore wind projects. 

The recent groundbreaking lease sale for offshore wind areas shows that the market is ready for offshore wind energy. The Department of Energy should identify more regions ripe for development, particularly along the West Coast and the Great Lakes.


(2) Increase federal support and funding for later steps in the process. 

More leases are good, but many projects get stuck in the permitting process before even beginning construction due to the lack of funding or complicated legal procedures. In addition to creating new leased regions, the Department of Energy should follow up with companies to provide support to streamline the rest of the steps toward construction.


(3) Increase research in offshore wind sources and environmental safety. 

Because offshore wind is a relatively new technology, federal funding through the Department of Energy should be increased to support further studies on different designs and impacts for offshore wind turbines.


(4) Invest in infrastructure to transfer energy from offshore wind plants to coastal communities. 

The federal government should provide block funding to local governments to build the infrastructure needed to send clean energy from offshore wind turbines to nearby communities. Block funding allows these communities to determine what type of infrastructure works best for their region and supports the costs of building that might otherwise be a burden. Financial incentives can also help utilities and regional ISOs work together to connect offshore wind sources to the local power grid. This collaboration is key to swiftly and smoothly implementing offshore wind power.


(5) Build more testing facilities for offshore wind technology.

Many conditions make offshore wind difficult to implement, from deep waters in the Pacific Coast to hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico or ice on the Great Lakes. To realistically implement offshore wind power, new technologies and designs need to be tested to ensure their ability to withstand these conditions.


Why This Initiative Is Important

 

Because offshore wind energy sources are so promising, more should be done to incentivize increased production to expand it. Climate change has no perfect and easy solution, which means that varying our sources of energy is important, but offshore wind energy has a lot to contribute to a solution.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


Sources


Gearino, Dan. “Inside Clean Energy: Explaining the Record-Breaking Offshore Wind Sale.” Inside Climate News, 3 March 2022. https://insideclimatenews.org/news/03032022/inside-clean-energy-offshore-wind-lease-sale/

Johnson, Tom. “Offshore Wind Hits Early Turbulence: Who Will Bring the Power Ashore?” Governors’ Wind and Solar Energy Coalition, 24 July 2018. https://governorswindenergycoalition.org/offshore-wind-hits-early-turbulence-who-will-bring-the-power-ashore/

McKenzie, Nate and Monica Maher, “Offshore Wind Energy Strategies.” Department of Energy, Jan. 2022. https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2022-01/offshore-wind-energy-strategies-report-january-2022.pdf

Wind Energy Technologies Office, “Atlantic Offshore Wind Transmission Literature Review and Gaps Analysis.” Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, Oct. 2021. https://www.energy.gov/sites/default/files/2021-10/atlantic-offshore-wind-transmission-literature-review-gaps-analysis.pdf

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