U.S. offshore wind power nears takeoff with 14 projects

2014-09-18 - USA Today article by Wendy Koch on September 8, 2014.
Long stymied by high costs and local opposition, offshore wind is finally nearing takeoff in the United States as 14 projects enter "advanced stages" of development, the Energy Department reports.

Two of the projects — Cape Wind in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts and Deepwater's Block Island off Rhode Island — have moved into the initial stages of construction while the others have obtained a lease, conducted extensive studies or obtained a power purchase agreement. Nine are located on the East Coast.

These projects represent about 4.9 gigawatts of possible capacity, according to a new DOE report that was produced by Navigant Consulting. That's a fraction of the 61 gigawatt capacity of onshore wind turbines, which meet nearly 4.5% of U.S. electricity demand in an average year.

Yet offshore wind holds much greater potential for the United States. At least 54 gigawatts of its power could be produced and transmitted to the grid by 2030, according to another new DOE-funded report done by several groups including DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Pittsburgh.

"We could eventually get there," says the report's principal investigator John Daniel of ABB, a power and automation company. He says the biggest obstacle for offshore wind projects are their high installation costs, especially at a time when a boom in U.S. production of natural gas has lowered its price.

Still, his three-year study found that a massive scale-up of 54 gigawatts of offshore wind power could yield long-term savings. It estimates $7.68 billion a year in lower U.S.energy costs, because power generation would be closer to where it's consumed.

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