Offshore Wind Energy: Why the U.S. is Far Behind on Offshore Wind Power
I recently came across an interesting article in the news about an incredible renewable accomplishment. The headline read: “Denmark’s wind farms generated 140% of the country’s electricity needs yesterday.” This article, which was posted online on July 10th, went into more depth of how Denmark’s wind farms were able to generate an excess supply of electricity on that day, and exported the surplus through interconnectors to Germany, Norway, and Sweden. It got me curious as to how these wind turbines work to power homes, and even more interested in the wind farms right here in the U.S. I was surprised to find out that although the U.S. does have onshore wind farms, there aren’t any offshore. What was even more shocking to me was that Denmark was the first country ever to have an offshore wind farm installed…in 1991! So, why does the U.S. currently not have any offshore? When will there be one offshore? Why is this stuff (renewable energy) so important? Well, let me enlighten you all!
What is a wind farm?
Let’s start with the basics. Wind turbines use wind (duh) to generate electricity. The wind turns the blades that spins a shaft connecting to a generator, and bam! Electricity is made. There are about 47,000 onshore wind turbines in the U.S. These wind turbines are currently onshore on farmlands in the U.S., with the largest ones installed in Texas, Oregon, California, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Washington, New York, Kansas, and Illinois.
Advantages of Wind Energy
- Renewable Energy – can be plentifully produced (since wind is always here because of the sun!)
- Clean Fuel Source – doesn’t pollute the air we breathe!
- Does not Produce Atmospheric Emissions – this is cool because acid rain and greenhouse gases aren’t created.
- Space-Efficiency – the largest wind farms can generate power to 600 U.S. homes
- Cost Effective – one of the lowest costs of renewable energy (between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt hour)
So now that we understand what wind energy is and why it’s an important source of electricity, we can now talk about why the U.S. is just starting to install these bad boys offshore.
Like mentioned before, Denmark has had offshore wind energy since 1991. Other countries also have offshore wind farms that produce electricity like China, Germany, Spain, France, the UK, and so many more. These wind turbines are placed in bodies of waters because there are stronger winds offshore than on land, creating more energy to produce higher amounts of electricity. So, why has there been hesitation from the U.S. in regards to offshore wind energy? Simple answer: environmental concerns and politics.
Some of the concerns stemmed from the noise level of these turbines when being installed and their impact on marine life, specifically the whales. Others had concerns about how the wind would impact birds and other things like the ocean floor.
It was also reported that Cape Wind, a project aiming to kickstart the offshore wind energy in the U.S., ceased installation for 14 years, and cancelled a few of its contracts. Cape Wind was supposed to be the first wind farm for the U.S. near Massachusetts in an area of the Atlantic Ocean called Nantucket Sound. Oil mogul and billionaire, Bill Koch had some impact on this delay, opposing the idea on the basis that the wind turbines would visually pollute the area and increase electricity costs. Other political and environmental legalities have made this project financially impossible for just the initial stages of its construction.
Block Island Wind Farm
While politics and environmental concerns still linger in the U.S., there is good news: this month (July 2015), a commercial company called Deepwater Wind will start the construction of the very first offshore wind farm in the U.S. The 30 megawatt wind farm, named the Block Island Wind Farm, is located in Rhode Island and is said to be completed in 2016.
In conclusion, the U.S. has fallen behind on wind energy compared to other countries, mainly due to environmental and political concerns. It seems now though that we are working out the technicalities and have done better research for protecting our ocean life to finally begin harnessing offshore winds for energy. There will always be pros and cons to every renewable energy source we dive into. I really like the idea though of wind energy and harnessing its power to create electricity. Wind is always here, it’s clean, and it’s a cost-effective renewable energy source. I hope it’s here to stay to help power our country!