America Is Finally Getting Serious About Offshore Wind

By Taylor Hill

May 1, 2015

Eighteen miles off the coast of Rhode Island, the first offshore wind farm in the United States is finally under construction—seven years after it was originally proposed.

Deepwater Wind will initially install five turbines, which the company expects to be operational by the end of 2016. The wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 17,000 homes.

That’s not going to make a big dent in even the smallest state’s power supply, but it is a positive shift for the country’s oft-troubled offshore wind energy industry.

Compared with Europe’s 2,300-plus turbines and their 29 million megawatt-hours of energy production a year, it’s clear the U.S. isn’t leading the field in offshore renewable energy.

But it’s not for a lack of trying. According to the American Wind Energy Association, there are 11 offshore projects in various stages of development in 10 states.

Boston-based Cape Wind is planning to build one of the biggest wind farms, a 130-turbine project off the coast of Massachusetts. But financing issues and protests from residents delayed the start of construction for years.

Still, 2016 could be the year of wind for the United States.

“Once Deepwater Wind’s project gets built, that will be an important inflection point,” Kit Kennedy, a renewable energy expert at the National Resources Defense Council, told The Associated Press. “We will have a solid framework in place for leasing and siting offshore wind projects, and we’re going to see this industry move forward now.”

Deepwater has bigger plans in the works, with a 200-turbine farm planned in the 742,000-acre Massachusetts Wind Energy Area marked by federal officials for offshore wind farm development. If the area is ever fully developed, it could produce enough electricity to power 1.4 million homes.

But there’s a lot of ground to make up if the U.S. hopes to catch up to Europe on the wind front.

Europe’s total wind-powered energy production now supplies more than 10 percent of the continent’s energy demand.

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