Offshore Wind Turbines Could Power Entire East Coast, Create $200 Billion in Economic Activity

Wind turbines in the Atlantic Ocean could power the entire East Coast, according to two reports, which are pushing for action in developing this long delayed industry.

Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy

Reaching the Department of Energy’s (DOE) goal of harnessing 54 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind off the East Coast – just 4% of the estimated potential – could generate $200 billion in economic activity, create 300,000 green jobs, and provide power for 14 million homes, concludes another report, The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy: Time for Action to Create Jobs, Reduce Pollution, Protect Wildlife & Secure America’s Energy Future.

Authored by the National Wildlife Federation (NWF), Environment America, and 45 other organizations, they note the Atlantic coast is ideal for offshore wind because of its high electricity demand and population density.

2,000 square nautical miles of federal waters have been designated for wind development through the Department of Interior’s Smart from the Start program, which identifies the best sites and accelerates environmental reviews. Leases are expected to be issued for some of these areas by the end of the year.

But leadership is urgently needed at state and federal levels make sure offshore wind becomes a reality in America:

  • President Obama should set a clear national goal for offshore wind energy development, and each Atlantic state governor should set targets for offshore wind development.

    These goals must be supported by policies that prioritize offshore wind and other efforts to secure buyers for this energy.

  • Congress should guarantee and embrace investment, production and research and development tax credits for wind technologies.
  • Federal regulators should expedite the permitting and leasing process, while safeguarding coastal and marine wildlife such as birds, bats, sea turtles and other marine mammals.

"Up and down the Atlantic Coast, the building blocks are being put in place to usher in a bright future for offshore wind," says Rob Sargent, Environment America’s energy program director. "But harnessing this vast yet-to-be-tapped resource requires a strong and ongoing commitment. There is broad public support for shifting to pollution-free renewable energy. Local, state and federal officials, including Congress, need to step up and link arms to make the promise of offshore wind a reality."

Stanford University Study

Stanford University research study finds that 144,000, 5-megawatt turbines (274 feet tall) similar to those already used off the coasts of Denmark and Germany would be needed. 

Researchers aren’t advocating for an all-wind strategy because diversified resources are important, but they make a compelling case for generating at least 50% of demand with wind.  

The research maps ideal sites up and down the Atlantic coast, favoring areas with lower hurricane risk north of Virginia and areas where turbines would be most difficult to see from shore. It also identifies the most economically sound sites, especially near New York and Boston which experiences high electricity prices in periods of peak demand.

The uncertainty surrounding the US wind production tax credit isn’t encouraging new wind projects right now and low natural gas prices are another issue for investors. The sole offshore wind project approved by the federal government thus far – Cape Wind – continues to meet with opposition from local residents concerned about the impact on views and property values.

Those criticisms don’t wash, says a Stanford researcher: "The question that I would first ask is would they rather have a coal or natural power gas plant in their neighborhood, which affects their health and that of their children as well as their quality of life and property values, or an innocuous turbine that they could barely see during those times when they were actually looking offshore," Mark Jacobson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, told NBC News

"There are dozens of other proposals in the U.S. that have not faced nearly the same extent of opposition," he says.

"People mistakenly think that wind energy is not useful because output from most land-based turbines peaks in the late evening/early morning, when electricity demand is low," Dvorak said. "The real value of offshore wind energy is that it often peaks when we need the most electricity – during the middle of the day."

Here’s the NWF report:

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