Why 2015 Will Be a Pivotal Year for the US Offshore Wind Industry

This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.

Guest Blog | October 15, 2014 | Energy Policy, Wind
Onshore wind turbines in Atlantic City, NJ

Last week I attended the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) annual offshore WINDPOWER conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Wind energy developers, government officials, non-profit advocates and academia came together to discuss exciting developments in the U.S. offshore wind energy industry.

This was a great location to highlight offshore wind energy opportunities. Atlantic City was hit hard by Hurricane Sandy and is very susceptible to climate change and sea-level rise. Fortunately, the city is already taking advantage of the benefits wind power has to offer. Atlantic City has five onshore wind turbines that serve as a major tourist attraction with some 15,000 people visiting the turbines every year! New Jersey is also moving closer to developing one of the country’s first offshore wind farms three miles off the coast of Atlantic City–which could bring 500 jobs to the local community.

2015 will be a momentous year for the industry:

There was a new kind of excitement in the air at this year’s AWEA conference. After many years of preparing for the offshore wind industry, we will finally see steel in the water in 2015! Cape Wind, a 130 turbine offshore wind farm project off the coast of Massachusetts, plans to begin operations at the site as early as this January. Block Island, a 30 megawatt wind farm three miles off the coast of Block Island in Rhode Island is also taking off. The Block Island developer, Deepwater Wind, announced at the conference that the project is nine months away from installing the first foundations for the wind turbines. Fishermen Energy’s project off of Atlantic City could also begin construction as early as fall 2015.

Credit: Siemens

Offshore wind energy is progressing in the Southeast:

While the Southeast isn’t as far along in developing offshore wind farms, the region has significant offshore wind energy potential in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Research by James Madison University suggests the region could host 1,695 megawatts to 9,760 megawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030.

States across the Southeast are at different stages of studying potential offshore wind sites. In Virginia, Dominion Power is in the vendor procurement process of a proposed 12 megawatt pilot project off of Virginia Beach while the Department of Energy plans to deploy a buoy near the site in November to study the wind resource. In North Carolina, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced three Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) off the coast just this past August, which sets the stage for competitive lease sales of these areas for development in the future. South Carolina has been working with BOEM since early 2012 to identify potential areas for offshore wind farms. A state Regulatory Task force for Coastal Clean Energy has been convening since 2008 to help South Carolina be adequately prepared for offshore wind development. Lastly, Georgia Power is pursuing the installation of equipment to study the offshore wind energy resource off the coast of Tybee Island. Before installing the equipment, Georgia must finalize the lease on the offshore area, the details of which are in the process of being worked out. We expect more movements in 2015 that will bring these states closer to developing an offshore wind farm.

Renewal of tax incentives are key for the offshore wind industry:

While offshore wind farms are almost a reality for the U.S., Congress must provide stable and dependable federal policies. The Production Tax Credit (PTC) has greatly helped expand the onshore wind industry and support a more cost-competitive energy market. The Investment Tax Credit (ITC) can similarly help jumpstart the offshore wind industry and would create local jobs and drive private investment. Yet, Congress allowed both tax credits to expire at the end of 2013, creating instability in the wind industry and placing thousands of American jobs at risk. During the conference, many panelists emphasized the need for Congress to renew both the PTC and ITC.

The conference was both informative and exciting with one major message: offshore wind farms in America are just around the corner!

Contact your elected officials today and tell them to put Americans back to work – support wind energy!

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