Offshore Wind: Domestic Opportunities and Advantages Abroad

23/04/2010 at 10:27 am Leave a comment

 Author: Brandi Colander
Recently, the American Wind Energy Association, (“AWEA”), the national trade association of America’s wind industry, released their United States Wind Industry Annual Market Report. The report highlights can be found at the end of this blog. Particularly noteworthy, the factoids confirming this industry’s ability to create domestic jobs that reduce our dependence on foreign fossil fuels. Furthermore, the report provided assurances that offshore wind has a bright, albeit challenging road ahead. Perhaps the best way to truly evaluate the promise of offshore renewables, particularly offshore wind, is by looking to those who have forged ahead beyond domestic borders.

According to the European Wind Energy Association, (“EWEA”), Europe decommissioned more coal and nuclear capacity than it installed in 2009 with renewable energy technologies, all together accounting for 61% of new power-generating capacity in 2009. Europe’s extremely impressive advances in offshore wind have led to 17 offshore wind farms currently under construction, expected to provide over 3,500 MW; half of these projects are being constructed in UK waters. I recently published an article in the Electricity Journal looking at offshore wind domestically and abroad. This article provides a regulatory overview of offshore wind in Denmark, the United Kingdom and the United States. Please click here for more information.

The cover of today’s Wall Street Journal provided additional coverage on the impressive advancements of offshore wind in Europe.  “The U.K.’s commitment is driven by stringent European Union targets. To meet them, Britain will have to raise the share of its electricity that comes from renewable sources to about 30% by 2020. It’s just 7% now. The U.K. also adopted a “carbon budget” a year ago, committing to reduce emissions to at least 34% below 1990 levels by 2018-2022.” In short, Europe made the commitment. This article goes on to comprehensively depict European offshore wind progress highlighting the issues that plague this industry: regulatory and environmental hurdles, siting and cost.

Under President Obama’s leadership, more than two dozen nations came together in Copenhagen giving birth to the Copenhagen Accord.  This unparalleled effort aims to reduce the emissions of both developed and developing nations.  Furthermore, they are holding themselves accountable by registering their national commitments by the end of January 2010. The United States has committed to a target to reduce emissions in the range of 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020, 42 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, and 83 percent below 2005 levels by 2050.

America anticipates Department of Interior Secretary Salazar’s final decision on the Cape Wind Energy Project very soon, as he has made a public commitment to do so before the end of the month. A favorable decision for Cape Wind would mark the first federally approved offshore wind farm in the United States. NRDC has been involved in the nearly nine years of rigorous review of Cape Wind and believe that the benefits of the project outweigh its impacts, with the implementation of the appropriate mitigation and monitoring measures identified in the review process. Not only could Cape Wind have the capacity to generate up to 468 MW of clean electricity, it could help launch the United States as a leader in renewable energy.

To further emphasize the point, the United States has the potential to be a world leader on clean energy. Americans want and need clean energy jobs now. As we celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day, we should consider what the next 40 years will look like. We have an opportunity to move beyond business as usual. We have an opportunity to demonstrate our ability to adapt, innovate and compete with the rest of the world. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to view a video on domestic green jobs.

Highlights from AWEA’s new report include:

  • The U.S. wind energy industry installed over 10,000 MW of new wind power generating capacity in 2009, the largest year in U.S. history, and enough to power the equivalent of 2.4 million homes or generate as much electricity as three large nuclear power plants.   
  • In industry rankings, GE Energy remained #1 in U.S. wind turbine sales; NextEra Energy Resources continued to lead in wind farm ownership; and Xcel Energy continued to lead utilities in wind power usage.  At the same time, however, more companies are now active in each of these areas, showing that the wind energy market is diversifying as it expands.  
  • There are 36 states that have utility-scale wind projects and 14 states are in the “Gigawatt Club” with more than 1,000 MW of installed wind capacity per state.
  • In state rankings, Iowa leads in terms of percentage of electricity from wind power, getting 14% of its power from the wind, and also leads in highest number of jobs in the manufacturing sector.  Texas consolidated its lead in wind capacity and in largest wind farms installed.
  • The report’s section on manufacturing shows that in spite of a slowdown in wind turbine manufacturing in 2009 compared to 2008, 10 new manufacturing facilities came online in the U.S. last year, 20 were announced, and nine facilities were expanded.  The largest category was wind turbine sub-components, such as bearings, electrical components and hydraulic systems.  In all, the U.S. wind energy industry opened, announced or expanded over 100 facilities in the past three years (2007- 2009), bringing the total of wind turbine component manufacturing facilities now operating in the U.S. to over 200.
  • All 50 states have jobs in the wind industry.   
  • Approximately 85,000 people are employed in the wind industry today and hold jobs in areas as varied as turbine component manufacturing, construction and installation of wind turbines, wind turbine operations and maintenance, legal and marketing services, transportation and logistical services, and more. 
  • To ensure a skilled workforce across the wind energy industry, 205 educational programs now offer a certificate, degree, or coursework related to wind energy.  Of these 205 programs, the largest segments are university and college programs (45%) and community colleges or technical school programs (43%).  
  • Despite the economic downturn, the demand for small wind systems for residential and small business use (rated capacity of 100 kW or less) grew 15% in 2009, adding 20 MW of generating capacity to the nation.  Seven small wind turbine manufacturing facilities were opened, announced or expanded in 2009.
  • Offshore wind power is gaining momentum in the U.S. The report lists seven projects with significant progress in the planning, permitting, and testing

Entry filed under: Renewable Energy.

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