The Struggle to Build Offshore Wind PowerTuesday, October 15, 2013 by: Greener Ideal
After many years of sheer struggle and legal battles, the US is beginning to realize the dream of establishing offshore wind power projects off the East Coast of U.S. In the past, sluggish movement toward this goal has been thwarted by insufficient government incentives, as well as tax credits, all of which have contributed to the slow development of the green energy sector.
In June this year, after many decades of setbacks, the US reported the launch of the first offshore wind power project off the East Coast. However, the power turbine launched was not a mega project, as many would have expected. The first turbine was installed in Castine Harbor. This turbine featured a capacity of 20 kilowatts, which was only sufficient to light a few homes in the area. While this was a low-capacity turbine, the good news is that the federal government had realized a milestone in its long history of struggle for offshore wind power.
Appreciating How Far the US Wind Power Sector Has Travelled
The energy sector in the U.S, especially the offshore wind power has come a long way to beat the odds to become a reality. Even as the rest of the sources of power continue to grow, the wind power industry continues to face many challenges. Today, the US produces over 60,000 megawatts of power from onshore wind projects, but the there remains a single offshore turbine, which was a pilot project that was initiated by a team of researchers from the University of Maine.
Unlike the lone project in the US, Europe made a significant stride by installing its first turbine in 1991 and its wind power industry has grown steadily over the past decade. While the US lags behind in the development of offshore wind power, European countries have built more than 1,900 offshore turbines producing approximately 6,000 megawatts each. So, is the offshore wind sector likely to kick off? Research shows that offshore wind has a greater potential of generating electricity than other forms of energy, which is the reason the U.S government has focused on building this industry.
Growth of the Sector: Hurdles and Constraints
While the industry has the potential of turning around the energy sector of the U.S, analyses suggest that the sector faces numerous challenges, most notable being high initial costs of constructing offshore wind farms, the cost of connecting the power to the rest of onshore grid and the slow pace at which the government avails incentives. All these factors are the notable hurdles that will continue to affect the growth of the industry in the next couple of years.
An Impressive Breakthrough
The good news is that after many years of legal battles, the infamous offshore wind power project, the Cape Wind project, hopes to take off early 2014. With the current projections to construct 130 wind turbines in Nantucket and Cape Cod, the US is poised to reinvent itself as a one of the leading nations in generation of offshore wind power in the world.
The Interior Department has since concluded the initial auctions for the first two offshore parcels for the development of the project. Over the last decade, the Cape wind project has fought protracted legal battles with the locals, who cited the effects of the project to the region’s beauty and the destruction of the seabird populations. According to the lead developer, Jim Gordon, the project will supply approximately 75 percent of the total energy needs of the region that boasts of a population of 215,000 people.
Government’s Renewed Commitment
The Obama administration and the Interior Department have commenced a process to streamline the procedures of permitting offshore wind farms, and this summer only, the government approved two major wind power projects, which are set for construction in 2014. The general energy and commitment of the government is geared toward making the US energy sufficient nation and one of the world’s largest suppliers of offshore wind electricity and green energy in the next couple of years.