On March 23 the Boston Globe Magazine posted my article entitled “Offshore Wind May Finally Take off with Big Projects, None Named Cape Wind.” It discusses omnibus energy legislation that will likely come out of the Massachusetts House within the next few weeks. Although it is impossible to know exactly what the legislation will include, predictions are that there will be a provision requiring Massachusetts utilities to purchase 2,000 megawatts of offshore electric generating capacity.
The requirement that the utilities purchase a significant amount of offshore wind, in the neighborhood of 2,000 megawatts, is crucial. Such a requirement is enough to jump-start an industry, not just a one-off project. Experts observe that a commitment of that magnitude could lower costs dramatically over the next decade. A requirement and, importantly, a requirement of a substantial magnitude, are the two pieces that will allow the market to bring down costs.
Thus far, there is no offshore wind generation in the entire U.S. The first offshore wind farm in the country will almost certainly be Deepwater Wind’s five-turbine pilot project off Block Island, still under construction and scheduled to start generating electricity late this year. Cape Wind, the project that is virtually synonymous with offshore wind in the U.S., has stalled in the face of endless litigation funded by the bottomless pit of Koch dollars.
Meanwhile, as I noted in my Globe article,
“[O]ffshore wind has become wildly successful in Europe. At the end of 2015, Europe had 3,230 offshore wind turbines in a total of 84 farms, providing enough electricity to power more than 7 million homes.”
As a result of this experience, and because of improvements in technology, costs are coming down. As the article continues:
“By the mid-2020s, experts forecast that prices in Europe for electricity generated by offshore wind will be about 40 percent less than the starting price proposed by Cape Wind. By then, international energy giant Danish Oil and Natural Gas wants its wind farms’ electricity prices to be competitive with natural gas.”
A federal agency, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, has leased hundreds of thousands of acres off the windy Massachusetts and Rhode coast to commercial developers. Three experienced companies with significant financial backing, including Danish Oil and Natural Gas, which has built 14 offshore wind farms in Europe, have obtained leases. The wind turbines closest to shore would be about 15 miles away, making them barely visible in good weather.
And we need offshore wind for lots of reasons: to jump-start the industry—and the jobs—before another northeastern state does; to supply clean energy; to diversify our energy supply, which is now worryingly weighted towards natural gas; and to bring our energy dollars home instead of sending them to other areas of the U.S. and the world that have coal, oil, and natural gas.
Here’s a link to my Boston Globe Magazine article: