Deepwater Wind Plans Massive Offshore Wind Farm off East Coast

Deepwater Wind is proposing a new design for a massive 1000 MG offshore wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island.

To avoid objections and lawsuits from area residents, Deepwater has developed stronger, four-legged platforms, which would allow much bigger wind turbines to be sited  further from land – a daunting 18-27 miles from shore. They could be built in water up to 170 feet deep, over twice the depth of the "monopole" turbines being used today.

The cost of the project: $4-$5 billion. The 200 turbines would supply electricity to multiple states along the East Coast. Deepwater wants to begin construction in 2014 and have the first turbines operating by the end of 2015.

The federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is seeking proposals for wind farms on the Outer Continental Shelf off the Massachusetts coast. The 3,000-square mile area of federal waters could produce 4,000 MW. That’s the electricity needed to supply 1.7 million homes, which would supplant all coal-fired plants in the state. 

If the federal initiative  succeeds, it would help move US offshore wind from infancy to maturity, but utilities would have to be willing to pay more for energy. 

And, as with wave and tidal energy, offshore wind raises concerns for marine life. "There’s a sense of urgency for  tapping into this clean energy resource, but it’s very important to thoroughly vet project sites to minimize impacts on natural resources," said Sue Reid, director of the Conservation Law Foundation in Massachusetts.

The controversial Cape Wind project, the first offshore wind plant in the US, was finally approved after years of legal action by area fisherman and residents. 

National Grid, the largest electric utility in Massachusetts, signed a contract to buy half the output. They will pay 18.7 cents per kilowatt hour for 15 years, beginning in 2013, with a 3.5% annual increase. That’s twice what they pay for power from fossil fuels and will increase customer electric bills 1.7%.

The other half of the Cape Wind’s electricity hasn’t been sold yet.

Offshore wind is expensive because of the high costs involved in building and maintaining giant turbines in an unforgiving ocean environment. It will cost an estimated $2 billion to build  the 468 MW, 130-turbine Cape Wind project. 

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center plans to offer matching funds to researchers and developers in an effort to reduce the cost of offshore wind 40% by 2020 and 60% by 2030.

The US DOE projects that an offshore wind industry could create 43,000 wind jobs across the US by 2020.

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