At first glance, wind power might seem to be an easy road in the trip to renewable energy: Set up a turbine and begin cranking. But where turbines have been installed, nearby residents have complained about the sight and noise. Beyond that, the costs to set up wind farms are high.
As a result, wind power has developed sluggishly in the United States – until recently, according to a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). There are now 14 offshore wind projects in advanced stages of development in the U.S. that are expected to be completed within the next five to seven years.
That’s according to an Aug. 27 report, Offshore Wind Market and Power Analysis, prepared for the DOE by Navigant Consulting of Chicago.
The report says most of the projects are off the Atlantic coast, which has enormous wind resources, but there’s also a floating project off the Oregon coast, one in Lake Erie off the Ohio coast, and one in the Gulf of Mexico off Texas. There’s even one in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
If all 14 projects are completed, the report says, they would generate nearly 4.9 gigawatts of electricity. That’s small compared to the 61-gigawatt capacity of existing on-shore wind farms, which on average generate nearly 4.5 percent of the country’s energy demand.
If the positive trends continue, offshore wind power could be contributing 54 gigawatts to the U.S. grid by 2030, according to another recent report.
That amount of wind could save the country $7.68 billion a year in energy costs, the study said. Further, a carbon tax – making polluting fossil fuels more expensive – would make wind power more economical, the report’s lead investigator, John Daniel of ABB, a power and automation company, told USA Today.
“We could eventually get there,” Daniel said. But he added that a hurdle for offshore wind farms is their steep construction costs, especially compared glut of inexpensive natural gas available.
Another snag is the expiration of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) for offshore wind power, which helps keep initial costs for construction low. That benefit was available only for projects that began before the end of 2013. And despite bipartisan support for wind energy in Washington, Congress hasn’t yet renewed the ITC.
If legislators renew the credit, wind power could go a long way toward realizing the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed 30 percent cut in carbon emissions from existing power plants by 2030. The plan is expected to go into effect in 2015, leading to shutdowns of many generators powered by fossil fuels, opening the door to alternative power plants.
By Andy Tully of Oilprice.com