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Cape Wind Coda

Do I underestimate U.S. offshore wind potential?

1 min read

Last week my posting about Federal approval of the immensely controversial Cape Wind project expressed skepticism about its significance and the general potential of offshore wind in the United States.

Tom Vinson, director of Federal regulatory affairs at the American Wind Energy Association, begs to differ. He points out that this is the first such project to obtain Washington's approval, and that all offshore projects further than 3 miles from the coastline require Federal approval. He says Cape Wind now has all required state, local, and Federal permits, except possibly one from the FAA, which must approve any structure higher than 200 feet.

Regarding wind's general potential, Vinson recalls that in a major study that found the United States could generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind, an estimated 54 GW of 300 GW total would be produced by offshore turbines. So that's tantamount to 3 or 4 percent of U.S. electricity coming from offshore wind.

That's not trivial. But I stand by my observation that potential is not the same as realistically developable. Every offshore project will be controversial, and I'll be very surprised if oceanic offshore wind is generating 3 percent of U.S. electricity by 2020 or 2030.

POSTSCRIPT (May 11, 2010):

AWEA, in its annual report, lists 12 offshore wind projects on the books. Four are in New Jersey, two in Massachusetts and two in Rhode Island, one each in Delaware, North Carolina and Texas, and a Great Lakes project near Cleveland.


The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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