U.S. Interior Department Touts Offshore Wind

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Despite the big benefits of offshore wind, there are still no wind turbines in the waters off the coast of the United States. The new administration, however, is looking to change that. The Department of the Interior released a report this week detailing the abundance of the country’s offshore energy resources. According to Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, the offshore wind potential exceeds the electricity demand of the entire country.


The report, which also notes the possibilities of tidal power, claims that there’s more than 1,000 GW of wind potential off the East Coast of the U.S., and more than 900 GW off the West Coast. A lot of that could already be spoken for — according to the Interior Department, the number of megawatts in the nation’s proposed offshore wind projects totals more than 2,000.

The first project to get up and running will probably be the long-delayed 420 MW Cape Wind development in Massachusetts, which received state approval earlier this month for power grid interconnections on Cape Cod. The offshore wind project passed another big hurdle back in January, and the Cape Wind group plans to start construction in 2010.

There are at least two other wind farms in the Northeast that could be next. In Rhode Island, Deepwater Wind is working on a 400 MW offshore project, and in New Jersey, Deepwater has teamed up with the Public Service Enterprise Group (s PEG) on a 350 MW offshore wind farm.

And while offshore wind can cost twice as much as onshore projects, some of the offshore potential might not have such a high price tag. The report said that wind resources in shallow water — with depths of typically no more than 98 feet — could account for at least 20 percent of the electricity needs of most of the coastal states. Setting a cost-conscious example is the Cape Wind project, which is set to be built in the shallow waters of the Nantucket Sound.

As for tidal power, the Interior Department didn’t have any estimates on its potential in the report, but did say the technology appears to be taking the lead over wave power, with predictable currents and good sites near the shore making it easier to develop.

Image courtesy of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

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