U.S. Offshore Wind Power Holds Vast Potential

Editor’s Note: EarthTechling is proud to repost this article courtesy of Blue Green Alliance. Author credit goes to Andreas Marcotty.

As a proponent of wind energy as a critical tool for job creation, environmental stewardship and energy security, I often find myself hypnotized by this map. The beauty and dynamism of the map are undeniable, but what is truly striking is the commentary on wind as a resource – it keeps coming. This map does not show a finite cache of wind in different locales, but rather a continuous, albeit shifting, flow of potential energy. With 51,630 out of an identified 10,400,000 MW of onshore wind energy currently captured, we certainly have not taken full advantage of this service.

By reading even FURTHER into this map, as a proper wind nerd would, a particularly interesting and unintentionally symbolic aspect of this map is that the winds represented stop abruptly at our shores. Similarly, these offshore winds are not included in our nation’s energy mix. As mentioned previously on BlueGreen Alliance blogs, this is too large of a resource to let sit idle.

east coast wind potential

image via Shutterstock

Others agree. President Obama’s administration has made massive inroads to implementing offshore wind technologies, and recently announced the first-ever competitive lease sales for renewable energy off of the Atlantic seaboard on the outer continental shelf. The Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management proposed the sale of 278,000 acres of identified wind energy areas off the coasts of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, supporting between 1,350 and 2,000 MW and Virginia, supporting more than 2,000 MW of clean, renewable energy. This is a significant milestone in the “Smart from the Start” initiative, if not the entire clean energy movement.

Speaking of Massachusetts, their Department of Public Utilities approved the 15-year power-purchase agreementbetween NSTAR and Cape Wind for 27% of the clean, renewable energy generated by the offshore wind facility (another 50% has been agreed to between Cape Wind and National Grid). A contract that guarantees a buyer for offshore wind power is critical to a project’s development, and Cape Wind is inching closer and closer to realization.

Not to be left out of the newsworthy mentions, Maryland’s Governor, and perennial advocate for offshore wind, Martin O’Malley released a letter urging President Obama to play an aggressive role in championing the passage of clean energy incentives and further efforts to address climate change and energy security. With 53.8 GW of offshore wind energy identified off of its coast, Maryland has attempted twice to pass offshore wind legislation and will try a third time this January in the New Year and begin to leverage its extensive labor sector in the establishment of the industry.

Making the case for a new energy industry is not easy. Energy resources have long benefitted in their development by supportive policies, and if policy parity is not enough, the large economic and environmental benefits of clean energy technologies should necessitate their support, especially given the economic and environmental stresses of our time.

With no examples of offshore wind turbines spinning in the ocean, where do we, as blue-green advocates, look for case studies to drive this point home to the public and to their elected officials?

The BlueGreen Alliance advocates the growth in the number and quality of jobs in the clean economy by expanding a broad range of industries, including renewable energy, energy efficiency, the substitution of safer, cleaner chemicals, modern transportation systems and advanced vehicle technology, domestic manufacturing, high-speed Internet and a smart, efficient electrical grid, green schools and other public buildings, improving our nation’s water infrastructure, recycling, and sustainable agriculture.