Europe has embraced offshore wind power as a major contributor to its electricity needs for a long time. As of June, there was a total of 3,344 offshore wind turbines with a combined capacity of over 11.5 gigawatts of power connected in European waters in 82 wind farms located in 11 different countries and providing power to millions of people.
In the United States, we have finally installed exactly five wind turbines offshore and when the Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island comes on line in October, it will be capable of powering about 17,000 homes.
The U.S. has installed over 50,000 wind turbines on land over the past 20 years and these supply about 5% of the country’s electricity. Turbines are easier and cheaper to build on land, but the wind is weaker on land and not nearly as steady.
But over the years as Europeans installed thousands of offshore turbines, American proposals ran into roadblocks – some related to high costs and environmental concerns, but most related to opposition from people who did not want their ocean views disrupted by wind turbine machinery.
The Block Island Wind Farm may have finally broken the logjam. With ambitious goals for renewable power being set by many Northeastern states, offshore wind is likely to become a necessary part of the strategy to achieve these goals. New York has the goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewables by 2030. In Massachusetts, Governor Baker signed a bipartisan bill to develop large offshore wind farms.
The winds of change are finally blowing offshore.
Photo, posted August 27, 2014, courtesy of Timothy Burling via Flickr.