Saturday, September 6, 2014

U.S. offshore wind energy sector - Feasible or not?

U.S. has significant offshore wind energy potential but federal government has so far done very little to ensure the development of this type of renewable energy. Wind energy projects onshore are booming in many U.S. states while offshore wind gets plenty of talk but very little action. In 2013, offshore wind produced just 162 kwh which is negligible amount compared to other renewables.

Many energy experts still argue whether offshore wind energy is feasible renewable energy option for United States. The recent study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the University of Pittsburgh concluded that current technology and coastal wind patterns make offshore wind feasible.

However, in order to attract investors government needs to speed up a permitting process that now takes up to four years. The sector also requires policies that would provide incentives for construction of a technology because offshore wind energy projects currently have prices twice the cost of onshore projects.

The study found that the best locations for offshore wind energy projects are along the Atlantic coast between Boston and Washington, D.C., not just because of the region’s wind patterns but also because of heavy demand for electricity in the area. On the other hand, The Pacific coast’s deep water makes offshore wind energy development far more difficult.

The offshore wind energy projects that are underway are three federally funded offshore wind farms off the New Jersey, Virginia and Oregon coastlines that are expected to be built by 2017.

One thing is sure though. The prices of offshore wind will have to significantly decrease in order for offshore wind farms to compete with those onshore. In other words, short term speaking, the policymakers have to come up with significant incentives to attract investors. Offshore wind has the potential to become feasible, and in the end it all comes down to a price of electricity.