Offshore wind rebounds

Elaine Maslin

July 1, 2016

Cape Wind is a 130 x 3.6MW turbine offshore wind park planned for off Cape Cod, Massachusetts. But, it has been struggling to get off the ground for some 15 years, says Stephanie McClellan, director, special initiative on offshore wind, University of Delaware. 

“People generally associated US offshore wind with that project,” she says, “That it cannot get off the ground. However, it can and will and is. Block Island [a wind farm off Rhode Island (see Building Blocks - OE July 2016)] started construction last year and will become operational in 2016. This will move us past the perception you cannot build offshore wind in the States,” McClellan told the All Energy conference and exhibition in Glasgow in May. 

Most of the activity is in the Bos-Wash, or Boston-Washington, corridor, McClellan says, and, thanks to policies in those areas, a market comprising some 3-5GW potential is expected to become available in the next year or so. 

There areas for offshore wind parks tend to be 10-15mi offshore, McClellan says, with 8.5-9m/sec wind speed in 30-40m water depth. 

It isn’t simple. Federal government is responsible for leasing site, while individual states approve power contracts. But it is happening. 

New York state and Massachusetts in particular are taking the initiative in offshore wind. Massachusetts has set a policy goal of 50% renewables for the entire electricity load of the state by 2030, McClellan says. “They have acknowledged they cannot do this without offshore wind,” she says. Indeed, the most prominent move towards offshore wind is being made in the Bay State, Massachusetts, McClellan says. 

Last January, an leasing round was held with Denmark’s DONG Energy and OffshoreMW (which is the US sister company of Germany’s WindMW) – both of which have already built wind parks in Europe – as well as US firm Deepwater Wind taking leases. 

Meanwhile, New York City’s Mayor Bill de Blasio wants 100% of city government electricity from renewable electricity by 2050, and it has been accepted this will not be possible without offshore wind. To put the goal into perspective, New York City’s government uses more electricity than the whole state of Delaware, McClellan says.

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