Offshore Wind Could Finally Start to Catch on in the US

Earther | Maddie Stone | June 28, 2018

There’s a huge amount of energy blowing in the wind right offshore, but America has been slow to take advantage of it, with just one small offshore wind farm in U.S. waters. But that may soon be changing.

Last month, Massachusetts selected an 800 megawatt (MW) offshore wind project to power about 400,000 homes off Martha’s Vineyard, while Rhode Island announced a 400 MW project in the same general area. Around the same time, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy committed to a whopping 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030—the largest state pledge to date.

“I think a lot of the success [of offshore wind], if it does continue to steamroll, will depend on how well these projects are executed and what kind of prices they come in at,” Doug Vine, Senior Energy Fellow with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, told Earther.

Indeed, the cost of generating juice is still something of a challenge for offshore wind in the U.S. Power from the five turbines comprising the Block Island Wind Farm—America’s first and only offshore wind farm—is priced at about 25 cents per kilowatt hour (kWh). That’s cheaper than the expensive (and dirty) diesel fuel residents of the sleepy vacation town of Block Island were using before, but still considerably higher than what ratepayers throughout the state are used to.

Things are moving in the right direction, though. In Europe, the cost of offshore wind has dropped steeply in recent years as the market has grown and turbines have become bigger and better. Some of that cost reduction is being seen stateside, too. Maryland commissioned two offshore wind farms last year at a 20-year fixed price of 13 cents per kWh, about half of Block Island.

Matthew Morrissey, Vice President of Deepwater Wind, the company behind the Block Island Wind Farm that also holds one of the Maryland leases, the new Rhode Island lease, and a lease for Long Island, told Earther that the recent surge in U.S. competition, driven in part by what’s going on overseas, “has had a very real downward pressure on bid-in prices.”

Read the full story here.