This summer a total of five wind turbines were installed in the Deepwater Wind project off Block Island, Rhode Island. This wind turbines mark the first “steel in water” for U.S. offshore wind power. The 30 MW wind farm is set to be operational this fall and power 17,000 homes.
This year (2016) will be remembered as “the year U.S. offshore wind arrived,” as Block Island Wind Farm, a 5-turbine 30 MW offshore-wind project, arose off Rhode Island’s coast this summer and will soon power the grid. While this wind farm is relatively modest in scale, it’s christening carried significance greater than its size. Dubbed as the first “steel in the water” for U.S. offshore wind, it was proof of the promise this abundant home-grown renewable resource holds to light boardwalks and boardrooms up and down the Eastern seaboard.
Whether Block Island marks a tipping point, or more tentative toe in the water for America’s clean-energy future, will depend on how quickly states empower the marketplace, coordinating among themselves and federal agencies to remove obstacles to entry and competition, which enables the U.S. offshore-wind industry to seize the opportunity.
Indeed, more crucial to the industry than “steel in the water” are larger utility-scale breakthroughs in two states — Massachusetts and New York — which have taken a lead in the high-stakes, multi-state renewable energy revolution that will determine the winner of the race to tap offshore wind.
Scale is Important for Offshore Wind
What remains clear is the size of the prize. According to scientists, there is enough wind off the coast of our most-populous, power-hungry cities — Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Lost Angeles, Washington, DC — to supply all the nation’s electricity, twice over. The East coast’s offshore-wind potential — 1,001 GW — could power the entire Atlantic seaboard.
The key to harnessing this significant resource is a commitment to scale to unleash what the market does best — drive down costs for U.S. offshore wind on a trajectory seen Europe, where 11.5 GW of offshore wind powers 7 million homes.
Land-base wind power has expanded exponentially in the U.S. — #1 new power source in 2015 — with a total capacity of 75 GW and cost-competitive in Great Plains states with all energy sources.
On U.S. coastlines, especially the Northeast, ideal wind blows offshore, strong and steady at peak-demand hours, with electric-generation potential many times greater than on-land wind.
One if by Land, Two (GW) if by Sea
According to a study by the University of Delaware Special Initiative on Wind, committing to develop offshore wind at scale — 2 GW — along with industry advances would lower projected costs over time as much as 55 percent, to a competitive 10.8⊄kWh within a decade, based on levelized cost of energy over the project’s life.
For offshore wind in the U.S., the study offered a clear way to reduce costs. With the utilization of sound analysis of U.S. cost drivers, benchmarked against real trends in Europe, the study gave policy makers a recommendation they needed to act: Set a firm commitment on scale and enlist a competitive market in the U.S. to do its job, as it did in Europe.
As Massachusetts heralded utility-scale U.S. offshore wind and may have first-mover advantage, New York State advanced its own plan to spur market competition, timely and efficient deployment, and lower consumer costs. New York launched its Clean Energy Standard in August 2016, committing to source 50 percent of its electricity from renewables by 2030, followed by its Blueprint ton make sure offshore wind is a key contributor.
While 2016 is the year U.S. offshore wind arrived, 2017 will determine if it thrives. The challenge that remains is converting this breakthrough into new synergy, coordinating between state and federal levels.
Offshore wind in the U.S. has proven it can be cost-competitive. It can demonstrate this offshore with smart state policy and federal support on permitting, data and R&D.
MAS Field Services is a field service company within the energy industry eager to be a part of the ever expanding goal of American energy independence. Whether it’s title for minerals on an oil and gas or solar project, leasing large acreage for a wind farm, or obtaining right of ways for long haul transmission and pipelines, MAS can get the right people in the right place. We are excited to tap the local oil and gas reserves needed to keep our way of life moving forward, capture the overwhelming wind and solar resources on local soil needed to help power America, and tackle the challenge of bringing those resources from production to consumption. Contact us with the link below for more information!