Report says U.S. lags on offshore wind energy

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Can the U.S. take advantage of its enormous potential for offshore wind energy? Photo courtesy Andy Dingley/University of Delaware.

University of Delaware study identifies key policy hurdles

Staff Report

The U.S. has fallen way behind on developing its potentially huge offshore wind energy potential, according to University of Delaware researchers, who identified some of the obstacles in a recent study.

According to their paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the U.S. is farther from commercial-scale offshore wind deployment today than it was in 2005.

“As we celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, it is disheartening to see that while land-based wind and solar have reached new heights, U.S. offshore wind has remained a missed opportunity,” the paper’s lead author, Jeremy Firestone, said in a release that summarized the study findings.A key stumbling block is the fact that offshore wind development is based on policy and regulatory models used for offshore oil. That doesn’t work because electricity from offshore wind is tied to local markets and must be part of a regional grid system.

Before offshore wind can be developed commercially at a large scale, the U.S. must revamp regulations, as well as tax and finance policy, he said.

“Electricity markets are different than oil and gas, it’s like trying to put a square peg in a round hole,” said Firestone, with the University of Delaware’s College of Engineering.

Offshore wind power could help the U.S. reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. By displacing coal and natural gas, offshore wind will reduce health costs and contribute to improved air quality and reduced climatic impacts. The report also outlines other benefits, including creation of local manufacturing and operational jobs, reducing common air pollutants, providing energy security and price stability, and improving U.S. economic competitiveness.

To help overcome current barriers to offshore wind implementation, the researchers also advocate focusing research on issues specific to the U.S. For example, the United States experiences more extreme wind and wave loading due to hurricanes and nor’easters, as well as icing in the Great Lakes areas.

Similarly, research aimed at better understanding the wind regime specific to the Atlantic Ocean’s Mid-Atlantic Bight — how windy it is and where — will provide important information about how much power can be generated in different segments of the ocean, which in turn affects prices that people would have to pay.

Social and cultural concerns of coastal residents also can impede offshore wind power development progress.

“Individuals often have deep and meaningful experiences with the ocean and long-standing ties to coastal communities, and as a result, may be resistant to changes to the coastal landscape. Attention also should be devoted to research that seeks to understand these social and cultural barriers to change,” Firestone said.

 

 

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