Offshore Wind For America

Offshore Wind For America

Released by: Environment New Jersey

The United States currently relies heavily on fossil

fuels to heat our homes, fuel our cars, power

our machines and produce electricity, harming

our health and our climate.

 

Across the country, however, America is beginning to

embrace the promise of clean, renewable energy. Today,

the U.S. gets about 11.5% of our electricity from wind,

solar and geothermal sources, up from about 0.6% two

decades ago.2 America’s abundant renewable energy

resources, coupled with energy efficiency measures and

technological advances that make renewable energy

cheaper and better than ever, open the possibility of

transitioning our entire economy to run on 100%

renewable energy.

 

To get there, we must take advantage of a massive

and underutilized energy resource just off our coasts:

offshore wind. That will require policymakers to

remove the barriers slowing down the growth of the

offshore wind industry, and instead support and

hasten that growth to provide clean energy where it’s

needed most.

 

Offshore wind has the technical capacity to power

the country with clean energy. The United States has

the technical potential to produce more than 7,200

terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity from offshore wind,

which is almost two times the amount of electricity the

U.S. consumed in 2019 and about 90% of the amount

of electricity the nation would consume in 2050 if we

electrified our buildings, transportation system and

industry and transitioned them to run on electricity

instead of fossil fuels.

 

Nineteen of the 29 states with offshore wind potential

have the technical capacity to produce more electricity

from offshore wind than they used in 2019. And 11

of them have the technical capacity to produce more

electricity than they would use in 2050 if the country

electrified homes and commercial buildings, transportation

and industry.

 

While the U.S. neither will, nor should, develop all of its technical potential for offshore

wind energy, the sheer size of the resource illustrates the

critical contribution that offshore wind can make toward

an energy system powered by 100% renewable energy.

 

Every coastal region of the United States has offshore

wind potential, though opportunities and obstacles to

offshore wind development vary by region.

 

• The Atlantic region – from Maine to Florida – has

the technical potential to produce almost 4,600

TWh of electricity each year, more than four times

as much power as those states used in 2019, and

almost twice as much as they would use in 2050

if the country underwent maximal electrification,

based on estimates from the National Renewable

Energy Laboratory. The Atlantic region, especially

the Northeast, has strong, consistent wind and a

wide, shallow continental shelf, making deployment

of offshore wind relatively straightforward using

existing technology.

• The Pacific region – including Hawaii but excluding

Alaska – has the technical potential to produce

almost 869 TWh of electricity each year

from offshore wind, more than twice as much

as it used in 2019, and almost 90% of what it is

projected to use in 2050, assuming maximum electrification.

The Pacific region has a very narrow

continental shelf, resulting in much of the wind

resource being in deep water and necessitating the

use of floating turbines.

• The Gulf region – Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and

Alabama – has the technical potential to produce

more than 1,400 TWh of electricity each year from

offshore wind generation, more than twice the

amount of electricity the region used in 2019 and

over 20% more electricity than the region would use

in 2050 assuming the country undergoes maximum

possible electrification. The Gulf region’s low wind

speeds and many conflicting uses reduce the area

available for offshore wind development.

• The Great Lakes region – Illinois, Indiana, Michigan,

Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Wisconsin

– has the technical potential to produce 344 TWh

of electricity each year from offshore wind generation,

almost half as much as it used in 2019 and

about one fifth as much as it is projected to use in

2050 after maximal electrification. The Great Lakes

region is limited in usable area and hampered by

winter ice floes that could damage floating turbines.

 

Out of every state in the U.S., Massachusetts has the

largest potential offshore wind generation capacity,

while Maine has the highest ratio of potential generation

capacity to electricity usage.

 

Offshore wind technology is advanced and proven,

widely deployed in Europe and Asia, and continues to

improve.

 

• There are more than 5,500 offshore turbines currently

deployed around the world, and more than

27 gigawatts (GW) of installed generating capacity –

enough to power 7.3 million U.S. homes.6

• The average capacity of the turbines currently

installed is more than 12 times larger than that

of the turbines in the first offshore wind farm

built in 1991, and today’s turbines are hundreds

of feet taller and more efficient even than turbines

installed in 2010.7 They are being installed in much

deeper water, and tens of miles farther from shore.8

• Turbines that will be available in the next few years

promise a new level of efficiency and generation

capacity and could help reduce the costs of offshore

wind while helping it power more of our energy

needs.

 

The United States already has many projects in the

development pipeline. In addition to the two operational

pilot projects, there are 34 proposals for offshore

wind development, which includes 27 projects in various

stages of planning and development.10 Together, they

total more than 26 GW of site capacity.11 The U.S. is

set to see huge growth in offshore wind, which will help

mature the industry and continue to drive down costs.

Offshore wind can help repower the U.S. with clean

energy – but taking advantage of the opportunity will

require support from policymakers and regulatory

bodies.

 

To help the industry grow, and to hasten the

transition to renewable energy, governments and regulatory

agencies at all levels should:

• Provide market certainty for offshore wind, as Connecticut,

Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New

York and Virginia have done by setting enforceable

targets for offshore wind deployment.

• Support domestic supply chain development.

• Set national standards to ensure the environmental

integrity of offshore wind projects and to avoid,

minimize and mitigate impacts to marine ecosystems

and wildlife.

• Direct the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management

and relevant state agencies to accelerate the offshore

wind leasing and permitting process while ensuring

transparency and environmental responsibility.

• Increase and extend tax credits for offshore wind

power.

• Plan for regional offshore wind development, including

transmission infrastructure.

• Support research and development of new offshore wind technologies.