The United States has enough offshore wind resources to generate twice the amount of electricity used by the current population, or nearly 2,000 gigawatts annually.

Offshore Wind Farms Give New Possibilities to Renewable Energy

Emily Folk | Conservation Folks

Offshore wind farms have been in operation for over 25 years. Though most facilities are located in Europe, the United States began operating the Block Island Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island in December 2016. While historically expensive, the cost of constructing an offshore wind farm has decreased to nearly half of what it originally was in 2015.

Reduced construction costs have also meant a reduction in the price of offshore wind electricity per megawatt hour. This alone makes offshore wind energy an attractive option for the United States to reduce their carbon footprint.

 

Abundant Resources

The United States has enough offshore wind resources to generate twice the amount of electricity used by the current population, or nearly 2,000 gigawatts annually. This comes as no surprise considering the country’s coastline is at least 12,838 miles long. The eastern coast of the United States is especially well-suited for offshore wind power.

Wind speeds offshore of the United States eastern seaboard range from less than 15 mph to greater than 22 mph. Wind turbines typically operate between eight mph and 55 mph, speeds over 55 mph can cause damage to the turbines, while speeds below eight mph aren’t as efficient.  

Approximately 50 percent of the population lives in coastal areas where land for renewables is limited. Offshore wind offers a viable option for renewable energy, which won’t impact existing land resources.

 

Future Plans

New York recently approved a proposal to construct a 15-turbine, 90-megawatt offshore wind facility off the coast of Long Island. This facility will generate three times the volume of electricity of the Block Island Offshore Windfarm. Once fully operational, the South Fork Wind Farm will have the capacity to provide electricity to nearly 50,000 homes.

 

Infrastructure Costs

As more offshore wind farms are constructed, future construction costs may decrease as the infrastructure needed to tie these facilities into the existing grid will already be in place. To capitalize on this opportunity, new farms will need to be constructed near existing offshore facilities to minimize the new resources needed.  

 

Improved Technology     

Improved foundation designs allow turbines to be built in deeper water further from the shoreline to take advantage of the stronger, steadier winds. More sustained winds mean turbines generate electricity more regularly. This also reduces the amount of maintenance required, as parts are moving more consistently rather than constantly starting and stopping.  

Stronger foundations have also allowed for larger turbines to be constructed. The larger the turbine, the greater capacity for energy generation. Fewer turbines also lessen the cost of the infrastructure needed to transfer the electricity to users.

Self-lubricating systems are being employed to reduce the frequency of maintenance needed. The casing for turbine electrical components in some instances has been pressurized to reduce vulnerability to salt spray.  

 

Legislative Barriers

Offshore wind is a new concept in the United States. Defined regulations haven’t yet been put in place to streamline the approval processes. For example, it took nearly 11 years for the South Fork Wind Farm proposal to be approved. Delays were due in part to concerns for marine habitats and the commercial fishing industry. Data collected on the operation of existing facilities will aid in determining the level of offshore wind farm environmental impacts, if any.  

Offshore wind farms offer an accessible, carbon-free method of meeting the electricity needs of the United States.

 

The content & opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag

Comments (0)

This post does not have any comments. Be the first to leave a comment below.


Post A Comment

You must be logged in before you can post a comment. Login now.

Featured Product

RBI Solar - Dahlia Has You Covered

RBI Solar - Dahlia Has You Covered

What if you could maximize the Ground Coverage Ratio (GCR) on your next project and not have to worry about the complicated variables that come with a tracker system? With a low tilt and clearance design, Dahlia® has the highest GCR of any fixed-tilt system in the marketplace. The system is available in three tilt options (7.5, 10 and 12.5 degrees) and designed to accommodate any sized PV module. The lightweight system is engineered with fewer components, several of which are shipped to job sites pre-assembled. This design feature reduces freight costs and rapidly trims the amount of on-site installation time required to complete construction. Maximizing PV coverage on a site can lead to an increase of production, which creates greater financial return for project owners. Over 100 MW of Dahlia® projects have been deployed across the United States, in regions of variable snow and wind loads. How much can Dahlia® cover and save you on your next project?