Offshore wind is one of the fastest-growing renewable energy industries in the world. Despite the incredible growth, there are still significant challenges to overcome to make offshore wind a major source of power for regions of the United States, Europe, and Asia.
The U.S. harnesses far less of its available offshore wind power than many of our European counterparts. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Europe has over 5,000 offshore wind turbines with a total capacity of 9,400 megawatts (MW).
The United States has only one operating offshore wind farm that has been in operation since 2010. That project, which is located off the coast of Rhode Island, has five turbines with a capacity of 30 MW.
Offshore wind energy is clean and renewable, but some groups still face opposition due to the cost and loss of view. The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) fact sheet on offshore wind describes two primary concerns: “visual impact and bird/wildlife interaction.” However, these concerns are outweighed by the many benefits of harnessing more energy from offshore wind.
The following facts highlight some of the major issues related to offshore wind and its future in America:
- The Offshore Wind Industry is Growing Fast
In 2008, the U.S. had no offshore wind energy capacity, but now the country has several major projects in development. The DOE expects that by 2018 there will be enough offshore wind turbines to power 1.2 million homes.
More than 4,000 MW of new offshore wind capacity was added between 2011 and 2013 across Europe, representing nearly $25 billion in investment. The cost of generating power from offshore wind has fallen by as much as 50 percent since 2010 and continues to decrease.
- Offshore Wind Energy is Clean and Renewable
Offshore wind turbines do not use fossil fuels like coal or natural gas; they rely entirely on the wind and sun for energy, making them renewable resources.
One of the biggest benefits of offshore wind is that it does not contribute to climate change. When the wind blows, turbines generate power, but they do not emit carbon dioxide (CO 2)—a major contributor to climate change. Nor will they overheat our oceans like nuclear or fossil-fueled power plants.
- Offshore Wind Energy Creates Jobs and Saves Taxpayers Money
According to the DOE, each 1,000 MW of offshore wind capacity can create between 5,000 and 6,000 jobs. The Atlantic Wind Connection alone is expected to produce up to 20,000 new jobs in seven states when it’s built.
Offshore wind farms also keep our natural resources free from waste by recycling the steel used in the turbines and repurposing components of retired wind farms.
- Offshore Wind Energy Supports Economic Growth
Offshore wind has the potential to provide power for households throughout the country, but it is especially important for states that are not self-sufficient in energy production. Wind turbines located far from land can harness the consistent wind that blows parallel to the coast, making it easier for states like New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Maryland to rely on offshore wind for their energy needs.
Currently, only about 2 percent of our country’s electricity is generated by offshore wind. But as more turbines are installed along the coasts, this number will continue to increase.
- The United States is Home to Offshore Wind’s Best Resources
The Atlantic Ocean offers up to 4,000 GW in technically recoverable offshore wind resources along both coasts. Researchers estimate these resources could produce enough power for our country’s entire grid.
The United States has more offshore wind potential than any other country in the world, but we are just beginning to tap into these resources.