What is the potential for offshore wind development along the Atlantic Coast of the United States? What are other countries doing? What barriers are ahead? How do we build a safe and responsible infrastructure for this renewable energy source that reduces impact to wildlife and creates jobs for American workers?
National Wildlife Federation investigated all of these questions in a report about offshore wind potential in the Atlantic.
Key findings of this report include:
The vast wind resources of the Atlantic Ocean have not been tapped. In contrast, European countries have 948 turbines installed at 43 offshore wind farms and are producing over 2.3 gigawatts (GW), enough electricity to power 450,000--600,000 homes. China recently completed its first major offshore wind farm, totaling 102 megawatts (MW). Not a single offshore wind turbine is spinning off the Atlantic coast of the United States.
The European Union and China’s offshore wind goals dwarf those of the United States. The European Union and the European Wind Energy Association have set a target of 40 GW of offshore wind by 2020 and 150 GW by 2030. China has established a target of 30 GW of offshore wind by 2020. The United States Department of Energy (USDOE) recently proposed the development of 10 GW of offshore wind by 2020 and 54 GW by 2030.
At over 212 GW of prime offshore wind potential, the Atlantic Ocean can become a major source of clean energy while creating jobs and economic growth across the region. A September, 2010, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) report classified 1,283.5 GW of total potential offshore wind in the Atlantic Ocean. NREL further classifies 212.98 GW of offshore wind potential in shallow waters with high wind speeds after environmental and socioeconomic factors are taken into account.
While the most extensive European study concluded that offshore wind farms do not appear to have long-term or large-scale ecological impacts, major data gaps for the Atlantic Ocean still exist and site-specific impacts need to be evaluated. A coordinated, comprehensive, and well-funded effort is needed to address these gaps and improve the permitting process. Such an effort would better inform the public and decision-makers on the extent of potential environmental impacts and benefits, reduce research costs and environmental requirements for project developers, increase community acceptance, and reduce risks to financial investors.
Offshore Wind in the Atlantic
There is a growing momentum for jobs, energy independence, clean air, and wildlife protection.