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Blowing in the Wind ...Offshore

February 10, 2011 - 9:28am


Have you ever flown a kite at the beach? If you have, you know how breezy it can be. A few miles offshore, you’ll find that the wind is even stronger and steadier. And it’s like that all around the country. Along the eastern seaboard and west coast, in the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico, and even around Hawaii we have a massive clean energy resource waiting to be tapped – the wind.

That’s why the administration developed the National Offshore Wind Strategy, released on Monday. This strategy will guide a national effort to accelerate development of coastal wind projects while driving down costs, helping us meet President Obama’s goal of powering the nation with 80% clean electricity by 2035.

Clean energy pioneers are flocking to this coastal frontier. They understand the promise and potential offshore wind holds. With 55% of Americans living within 50 miles of the coasts, even companies like Google are expressing interest in transmission investments to bring clean wind power to port in the country’s most populous regions.






Secretary Chu at the Off-shore Wind Announcement | Photos courtesy of the Department of Interior






The new offshore wind strategy lays out a path to potentially have 54 gigawatts of offshore wind capacity by 2030, enough to power more than 15 million homes with clean, renewable energy.

But to get there, we need to overcome hurdles like rough seas and a lack of data about offshore wind sites. So, the Department of Energy is investing over $50 million over the next five years in innovative turbine design and technologies that can withstand corrosive saltwater and storms; in studies to remove market barriers, reduce risk, and bring private sector capital off the sidelines; and in next generation drivetrain R&D.

This investment builds on last year’s Department of Energy investments in two new facilities – one in Boston and one in North Charleston, SC – that the wind industry can use to test the larger wind turbines that can be used offshore. It also complements the Interior Departments efforts to expedite wind project approvals for Mid-Atlantic States. Together, the Energy and Interior Departments are helping stand up an American offshore wind industry, making offshore wind more attractive to investors and laying the policy groundwork to realize its potential faster.

History tells us this will work. Land-based wind parks continue to fan out across the nation, providing affordable clean electricity to American homes and businesses. Federal investment in R&D and demonstration and deployment over the past 30 years has driven down the cost of land-based wind from 80¢/kWh to 5-8¢/kWh. Today, the industry is growing rapidly and supporting tens of thousands of good clean energy jobs.

Offshore wind could do the same. It’s an invisible engine that could help propel the clean energy economy in the future. And it’s waiting to be harnessed just off our coasts.

Cathy Zoi is the Assistant Secretary for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.