DOE Investments Boost Innovations in Offshore Wind, AWEA Offers Phase-Out of PTC

The Department of Energy (DOE) announced it will invest in seven offshore wind projects in Maine, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Virginia.

In the initial phase, each project will receive up to $4 million to complete the engineering, design and permitting phase. DOE will select up to three of these projects for follow-on phases that focus on siting, construction and installation and aim to achieve commercial operation by 2017. These projects will receive up to $47 million each over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

The funds will support more efficient, cost-competitive offshore wind technologies. They will also help clear hurdles to installing utility-scale turbines in US waters, connecting to the power grid and navigating new siting and permitting processes.

Local communities are showing increased interest in offshore wind, with town halls on the subject in Maryland and New Jersey today. Environmental groups also reached an agreement with offshore wind developers on protections for the endangered North Atlantic Right Whale.

One of the projects is off the coast of Maine, where the first test of a floating wind turbine takes place next year. The goal is for 170 floating turbines installed by 2030, producing 5 gigawatts of wind energy.

The turbine automatically adjusts and turns the angle of its blades based on wind speed and direction, either to most efficiently capture wind or to avoid its full force.

It’s much cheaper to allow wind turbines to float than to drill them into the seabed, and they can be towed back to land if they need to be repaired. That should make wind electricity competitive

Another project is in the Great Lakes, where 5-9 turbines are planned for Lake Erie, seven miles off the coast of Cleveland. Last year, DOE signed an agreement with governors of Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, and Pennsylvania to streamline offshore wind development there.

More information on these projects is here.

Last year, land-based wind power represented 32% of all new electric capacity additions in the US, accounting for $14 billion in new investment, notes DOE. Nearly 70% of the equipment installed at those US wind farms – including wind turbines and components like towers, blades, gears and generators – is now from domestic manufacturers, doubling from 35% in 2005.

PTC Still Isn’t Renewed

The Production Tax Credit (PTC), which is set to expire at the end of this year, has been a major driver of this tremendous expansion and DOE is calling on Congress to extend it.

Today, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) offered Congress a way to phase out the wind PTC if they would just go ahead and renew it by year end.

They say if it’s slowing phased out over the next six years, the wind industry would have the time to be competitive on its own without any government support.  

Asking Congress not to send the wind industry over its own "fiscal cliff," AWEA is asking for the PTC to be extended for all projects that commence construction in 2013. After that it would be phased down to 90% of that value for projects placed in service in 2014; 80% in 2015; 70% in 2016; and 60% in both 2017 and 2018, ending after that.

AWEA says that would allow wind energy to establish a stable base market in the US that the industry can build on. This is what it is necessary for at least a minimally viable industry, they say. 

Learn about the Obama administration’s National Offshore Wind Strategy:

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