Offshore Update: Wind Power Momentum Builds

Sometime within the next year, we will finally get to post a story on the very first offshore wind turbine installed in United States waters. But not just yet. The news on offshore wind continues to build, though, and the progress portends that once that first turbine does start spinning, a thousand others won't be all that far behind.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar made an appearance in Rhode Island this week, announcing a call for proposals for offshore wind facilities. The permitting and approval process will supposedly be streamlined, and the first approvals are expected by next year. The tiny state's coastlines have big wind power potential, with an NREL report suggesting as much as 1000 gigawatts could be generated there.

And though such a lofty figure isn't the most practical of goals, some of the existing proposals in Rhode Island are indeed immense. Neptune Wind recently announced plans for a 500-megawatt wind farm 20 nautical miles offshore, near the Rhode Island–Massachusetts border. Similarly, Deepwater Wind has plans for a 200-turbine, 1000-megawatt farm in Rhode Island Sound.

The only federally approved US offshore wind farm, of course, remains Cape Wind. Though still fighting off legal challenges, construction is expected to start in Nantucket Sound by next year. Cape Wind's first-in-the-water goal, though, may be at risk: Coastal Point Energy may have its first turbine spinning in the water off the coast of Galveston, Texas, by the end of this year.

Elsewhere, offshore wind is also picking up steam. Secretary Salazar also visited a center at the University of Maine focused on developing offshore technology; the center is part of the DeepCWind Consortium, a group aiming at generating 5 GW of offshore wind power by 2030 using floating turbine technology.

Offshore is even gaining some momentum in Washington, D.C. Last month, a collection of senators introduced the Incentivizing Offshore Wind Power Act; the legislation would provide investment tax credits to the first 3000 megawatts of offshore power. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

All of this movement has yet to actually produce a single watt of power, but it feels like progress nonetheless.

(Image via Danny Rimpl)

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