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Can Lessons Learned from Germany Spin Offshore Wind Forward in the U.S.?
Heinrich Böll Stiftung
March 7, 2014
by Marisa McNatt
Editor's Note: Marisa McNatt researched information for this story while traveling in Copenhagen, Denmark as part of the Heinrich Böll Foundation's Climate Media Fellowship program.
This past June, energy rolled into the U.S. electricity grid from offshore wind for the first time in the coastal town of Castine, Maine. Standing at about 60-feet and generating just enough electricity to power a few homes, the University of Maine’s offshore wind turbine prototype is a toe in the water for the U.S. when it comes to generating electricity from wind over the sea.
There’s enormous potential for electricity generation from this renewable source in the U.S. - 4,150 gigawatts (GW) of potential installed capacity from offshore wind resources can be found in the country’s coastal waters, or enough electricity to power 4 billion homes at peak performance. In 2008, the U.S.’s total electric generating capacity from all sources was 1,010 GW.
In some ways, it’s no surprise that this energy source in the U.S. has remained untapped. There’s nothing simple about installing an offshore wind park. The barriers to electricity generation from offshore wind are significant including the lack of U.S. policies to support offshore wind, the regulatory permitting process, the need to attract investors for these multi-billion dollar projects and the technical challenges of constructing the parks in turbulent seas. With many in opposition to the proposed offshore wind park in the Nantucket Sound - Cape Wind - off the coast of Cape Cod, Mass., because of how the park might affect the view, the social barriers to offshore wind farms are also strong in the U.S.
However, across the Atlantic, the EU is demonstrating that it is more than possible to overcome these challenges. At the end of 2012, Europe had 5 GW of offshore wind installed, enough electricity to power 4.6 million average EU households. Europe connected 277 offshore wind turbines to the grid - or more than 1 GW - in the first six months of 2013.
The offshore wind sector is not only blowing in clean energy in Europe because both coastal and inland EU communities are making economic gains where offshore wind parks thrive, proving it’s worthwhile for the U.S. to take on the challenge. Read the full report...