Not Enough Wind To Fill U.S. Energy Sails
The U.S. government has begun the process of planning wind energy developments off the southern coast of New York, but if the history of East Coast wind projects is any indication, the effort may face a long fight.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management wants private sector and public input regarding plans for commercial wind energy leases for an area about 11 nautical miles off the southern coast of Long Beach, NY.
While there are no offshore wind farms yet in commercial service in the United States, that may change given recent developments with U.S. President Barack Obama's so-called "all-of-the-above" energy policy.
A 2012 report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates there may be four times more energy available in offshore wind power than there is currently on the U.S. electric grid. And while wind speeds off the East Coast are lower than those in the Pacific Ocean, the shallow Atlantic waters make it cheaper for developers.
Renewable energy company Deepwater Wind said on May 8 that it's on pace to launch the nation's first-ever offshore wind farm after getting the environmental permits necessary to start building its Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.
The facility, once it starts working in 2016, will be able to generate 30 megawatts of power at peak capacity. Its five turbines will spin fast enough to meet the annual energy demands of more than 17,000 households, though it has its opponents.
At least one critic in Rhode Island says it's a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. While likely a good thing, environmentally speaking, it will wind up costing consumers hundreds of millions of dollars in electrical charges, says C. Davis Fogg, a business consulting expert in Rhode Island.
Four years ago, the U.S. Department of Interior approved the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound after nine years of regulatory review. That project would be able to meet the energy demands of at least 75 percent of the households in the region.
And yet, the company planning the project said there have been more than two dozen failed legal challenges to the wind farm's development, ranging from alleged violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act to the National Historic Preservation Act. In striking down the latest challenge, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts complained about the efforts from an "obdurate band of aggrieved residents."
The United States is way behind the rest of the world in terms of deployment of wind energy projects among countries with vast coastal territories. But it's making progress. Five commercial wind energy leases have been awarded off the Atlantic coast and more auctions are set for the coming year in Maryland, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
Unfortunately, they may be years away from fruition.