The U.S. is sorely lacking when it comes to offshore wind farms.
Though several states have proposed viable offshore platforms, it all depends on whether Congress renews tax credits and federal loan guarantees.
Recently, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory released a study showing that the U.S. potential offshore wind power generating capacity outstrips the present national electricity generating capacity by a factor of 4.
To even begin to develop the necessary infrastructure and put it in motion would require a sizable workforce, and that means job creation. That’s become a rallying cry for renewable energy champions all across the board.
The U.S. at present doesn’t have much of the needed infrastructure to make offshore windpower widespread, especially sufficient jack-up lift vessels which do much of the work involved in installing offshore wind turbines. And given the offshore wind boom across Europe and recently China, most of the top-notch foreign vessels are heavily booked.
There have been arguments to convert some heavier U.S. oil field vessels for this purpose, but the momentum for such conversion would have to come from a significant growth in the U.S. offshore wind sector.
But Cape Wind could become a pioneer for offshore infrastructure development. Cape Wind, planned for the Nantucket Sound, has been in the discussion phase for 11 years and could be America’s first offshore wind farm.
The farm will have 130 turbines producing 420 megawatts of energy, and it will provide nearly three quarters of the power needs of the Cape and the Islands.
The project is expected to create nearly 150 permanent jobs and several thousand transient positions. According to the official website, it will create “an offshore wind power 'cluster'”, including Hy-Line Cruises, Siemens Wind Power, Sgurr Energy, E2 Engineering, and Global Marine Energy. Energy Management Inc. is heading the project development.
Most attractively, the project has the potential to save $4 billion dollars over the facility’s projected 25-year lifespan. It is still awaiting certain permits to allow construction to begin.
It remains to be seen how successful the offshore wind sector becomes in the U.S., but projects like Cape Wind can surely push things in the right direction.