The first offshore wind turbine in the U.S. was recently deployed off the coast of Maine. The pilot project uses a floating platform with a small wind turbine affixed to a tower. The project is a small, but significant step toward developing an abundant clean energy resource in the U.S.
Offshore winds are stronger and steadier than onshore winds and they blow during the day and in heat waves, when the demand for energy is the greatest. The East Coast is dubbed the “Saudi Arabia” of offshore wind, because there is enough offshore wind energy there to provide the entire U.S. with electricity, if it is fully developed.
The U.S. still lags behind Europe in developing offshore wind farms, where they have been providing jobs and clean energy since 1991. There is a lot of catching up to do, but floating offshore wind technology is an encouraging step forward. Developing floating turbines is exciting because some of the strongest offshore winds are located in areas of deep water that cannot be accessed with a conventional offshore wind turbine which uses a steel foundation placed into the seabed. Floating offshore wind platforms could be placed in deep water locations near Maine, California, Oregon, Hawaii, and within the Great Lakes.
Another big milestone for offshore wind happened this week when the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM ) announced that the nation’s first competitive lease sales for offshore wind development are scheduled for next month in an area off of Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Offshore wind farms in this location could provide one million homes with emissions-free electricity. Oceana has been supporting this progress, and providing input to the government about how to protect marine wildlife during the construction of our first offshore wind farms.
The technology is here and the demand for clean energy is high, but we will need political support to truly establish an offshore wind industry in the U.S. For one, Oceana has been working to establish a long-term extension to the Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for offshore wind. This policy would allow offshore wind to flourish, and help us transition away from fossil fuels and dangerous offshore drilling.