Opinion: The time has come for offshore wind power in the United States

 Authors
  1. Jeremy Firestonea,1,
  2. Cristina L. Archera,
  3. Meryl P. Gardnerb,
  4. John A. Madsenc,
  5. Ajay K. Prasadd, and
  6. Dana E. Verone
  1. aSchool of Marine Science and Policy, Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716;
  2. bDepartment of Business Administration, Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716;
  3. cDepartment of Geological Sciences, Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716;
  4. dDepartment of Mechanical Engineering, Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716;
  5. eDepartment of Geography, Center for Carbon-Free Power Integration, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716

Offshore wind turbines have been successfully deployed in Europe since 1991, providing thousands of megawatts of clean energy for multiple nations. Ten years ago, it seemed that the United States would follow suit: The US Energy Policy Act of 2005 directed the Department of the Interior (DOI) to establish an offshore leasing regime in federal waters (generally oceanic waters 3–200 nautical miles from the coast). It appeared to be a crucial step in opening the door to the country’s vast offshore wind resource: turbine installations in the Mid-Atlantic Bight alone could power all United States electricity, automobile transport, and building heat needs (1).

Despite recent progress at the demonstration-scale Deepwater Wind project off of Rhode Island, the United States is perhaps further from commercial-scale offshore wind deployment today than it was in 2005. Meanwhile, Europe went from 622 megawatts of offshore wind capacity in 2004 to more than 8,000 in 2014 across 74 wind projects, with those under construction to increase capacity to almost 11,000 megawatts (2). United States offshore wind has so far remained a missed opportunity, given its huge resource size and proximity to population centers, the magnitude of the climate change problem, and the public’s hunger for a transformative energy policy with offshore wind as part of the vanguard (3).

Why has United States offshore wind struggled, while land-based wind and solar have reached new heights? How can a robust offshore wind power industry develop in the United States in the next 10 years?

Here, seeking to glean lessons learned and find a path forward for the United States, we consider first how Europe advanced offshore wind in the face of impediments, such as comparatively small offshore exclusive economic zones (Germany), small populations (Belgium and Denmark) (Fig. 1), and late starts (United Kingdom and Germany). …

1To whom correspondence should be addressed. Email: jf@udel.edu.

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