Offshore wind has been slow to develop in the US but thanks to aggressive renewable mandates in several coastal states and declining costs, the pace is finally picking up. Presently, there’s only one offshore wind farm in the United States – the 30-megawatt Block Island Wind Farm. But, with states like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey looking to up their clean energy usage in the US, the excitement around offshore wind energy is steadily increasing.
What are the immediate and long term needs of offshore energy?
Although it’s much more expensive and tougher to construct turbines in the ocean, offshore wind is needed due to the following reasons:
- Increasing energy demands in coastal areas: 39% of the U.S.’ population lives in coastal areas. The population in these areas is expected to increase by 8% from 2010 to 2020. Building offshore wind farms in these areas can help to meet the growing energy needs.
- Lack of space: Offshore wind is a better option than onshore wind power in the US because many densely populated states in the northeast lack space needed for large onshore wind farms. With land being relatively scarce and expensive for large onshore wind farms, offshore wind looks like a more realistic and appealing option.
- Aggressive RPS standards: The states, such as Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Delaware and Connecticut have aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) that utilities have to meet. RPS is a regulation that requires states to produce more energy from renewable energy sources.
- To reduce pollution and energy costs: Wind power does not consume water, provide a domestic energy source, create jobs, and does not emit environmental pollutants and greenhouse gases. Encouraging offshore wind farms would also lead to lower energy costs for consumers and reduced environmental pollution.
Offshore wind still has a long way to go to compete with fossil fuels
While onshore wind energy is now competing with fossil fuels on a global scale, offshore wind still has a long way to go before it becomes a competitive industry. For offshore wind, the industry is making great efforts. From cost reduction through installing higher capacity turbines to optimizing the supply chain, many measures are being taken to give a push to the industry. Progress continues, but stable regulation and long-term policy visions will be required to match the industry’s vision.
According to a report titled Renewable Power Generation Costs in 2017, even though offshore wind projects are still quite costly, they are expected to drop in price between 2020 and 2022.
This cost decline prediction in the wind power technology is really exciting, but it also gives rise to an important question – “Are U.S. grids really prepared for offshore wind power revolution?”
How prepared are US grids for offshore wind power
According to research conducted by the University of Delaware and Princeton University, injecting large amounts of offshore wind power into the U.S. electrical grid is definitely manageable. It will help bring down electricity costs and will reduce pollution too. A team comprising of researchers from the University of Delaware and Princeton conducted experiments to show that, with some upgrades to transmission lines, the PJM grid can handle over 35 gigawatts of offshore wind. If this report is to be believed, there will be 35 billion watts of energy, which will be enough to power approximately 10 million U.S. homes. Also, with the improvement in wind forecasting, power operators will be able to better predict and harness wind power.
U.S. Offshore wind power is slowly gaining momentum
Support for United States’ offshore wind power development has been building steadily. The Trump administration is approving new leases for offshore wind development, but the biggest impetus so far has been at state-level.
- Massachusetts aims to install at least 1,600 megawatts of electricity by 2017.
- New York aims to install 2,400 megawatts of electricity by 2030.
- New Jersey has also committed to 3,500-megawatt goal by 2030.
- Other states, such as Virginia, Maryland, Rhode Island, Delaware and North Carolina are also slowly moving forward in this direction, with federally approved leases to develop offshore wind farms.
While it has been an uphill battle for offshore wind in the U.S, it has finally gained traction in the US energy landscape. Between ambitious state renewable energy goals, decreasing costs and increasing energy demands, the long-awaited U.S. offshore wind power surge is now widely seen as imminent.