Offshore Wind Power Potential 212 GW?

Consider this assessment of the state of U.S. wind-power development, from Curtis Fisher of the National Wildlife Federation: “More than 980 offshore wind turbines are spinning right now in Europe, and not one in the Atlantic.” That’s a shocking fact that the Federation and a coalition of groups – including other environmentalists, but also sport-fishing, labor and business organizations – are hoping to change.

In a new report, they say the Atlantic coast, with its shallow coastal waters, could produce more than 212 gigawatts of power. Their analysis shows that right now, about 6 gigawatts are proposed. Bridging the gap between 6 and 212 will only happen, they say, if the offshore wind permitting process is streamlined – particularly for high-priority areas — and investment is boosted.

Offshore wind power, turbines

image via Center for Integrative Environmental Research, University of Maryland

“This new industry holds great potential to create jobs, cut pollution, and reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels,” Fisher said. “The six gigawatts of proposed Atlantic offshore wind projects are a great start, but we need a coordinated and comprehensive effort of government and the market to bring these and other projects over the finish line.”

The groups did say they were encouraged by a the Obama administration’s “Smart from the Start” process for offshore wind-power development, unveiled last month.

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.