U.S. Offshore Wind Gets More Organized

The Obama administration yesterday continued its push on offshore wind power, announcing over $50 million in new research and development funding, and identifying official “Wind Energy Areas” offshore Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia that will be part of its “Smart from the Start” program to speed wind energy development on the Outer Continental Shelf. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the Department of the Interior (DOI) cast the move as another step toward meeting the administration’s goal of generating 80 percent of the U.S. electricity from clean sources by 2035.

“The joint ‘National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States’ plan made is the first-ever interagency plan on offshore wind energy and demonstrates a strong federal family commitment to expeditiously develop a sustainable, world-class offshore wind industry in a way that reduces conflict with other ocean uses and protects resources,” the agencies said.

offshore wind power, U.S. Atlantic coast

image via University of Maryland

The over $50 million going out breaks down as $25 million over five years for the design and development of turbines and the systems that control them; $18 million over three years to study ways to overcome market barriers to developing wind power; and $7.5 million over three years to design next-generation wind turbine drivetrains, which the agencies called “a core technology for cost-effective offshore wind power.”

The Interior Department also said it would soon bring areas off other states into the Smart from the Start program, which was unveiled last November, including areas off Massachusetts and Rhode Island next month, and North Carolina later this spring.

In the big picture here, the DOE envisions a scenario that includes deployment of 10 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity by 2020 and 54 gigawatts by 2030. Those scenarios include development in both federal and state offshore areas, including along Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts as well as in Great Lakes and Hawaiian waters. Those levels of development would reportedly produce enough energy to power 2.8 million and 15.2 million average American homes, respectively.

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.