Unleash the Ocean Winds: 3 Signs that Offshore Wind Energy Has Arrived in the US

December 15, 2016 | 1:26 pm
The latest thing in energy: the Block Island Wind Farm (Credit: J. Rogers)
John Rogers
Energy Campaign Analytic Lead

UPDATE (Dec. 16, 1:34 pm EST): The intense bidding is finally over! After a marathon session that spilled into a second day, and 33 rounds (!) of bidding, the winner of the New York offshore wind area lease is Statoil Wind US. The $42.5 million winning price is by far the highest amount paid in any of the dozen auctions to date, and a real vote of confidence in the future of offshore wind in the US. Exciting times indeed.

It’s been quite a week for offshore wind in the US—new leases, new deals, and the first-ever offshore wind electrons in the Western Hemisphere.

The first-ever offshore wind project in the Americas officially turns on.

The week kicked off with the first-ever offshore wind project anywhere in the Americas getting the go-ahead to start delivering energy to Block Island (RI) and beyond, and officially turning on.

The Block Island Wind Project‘s five turbines are the vanguard of an amazing revolution in renewable energy in the Northeast and beyond—jobs, economic development, carbon-free energy, and a whole new way of getting the power we need to run the region’s homes and businesses. (Turn, baby, turn!)

There’s offshore wind action in Massachusetts.

The week’s offshore wind oomph continued with an announcement yesterday that Eversource, a local electricity and gas utility in several New England states, had signed on to get a piece of offshore wind action in the region.

Eversource has bought a 50-percent stake in a venture owned by the Danish company DONG. Bay State Wind, as it’s known, holds one of the offshore wind leases off Massachusetts’s south coast—enough area, they say, to power at least one million Massachusetts homes.

Thanks to the Massachusetts energy law from this past summer that will drive Massachusetts utilities to buy offshore wind, we’ll need all that, and much more.

One of the biggest prizes in offshore wind is up for auction. Right now.

And even as I write this, I keep hitting the refresh button to watch a host of offshore wind bidders competing for one of the biggest prizes to be had: New York. BOEM, the US government agency responsible for managing our coastal areas (the Outer Continental Shelf) that will host future offshore wind projects, is conducting an auction on several lease areas south of Long Island, and close to New York City. A new round of bidding is happening every 20 minutes, and so far no bidders have dropped out.

So stay tuned. I can’t guarantee that every week is going to be this exciting in the world of US offshore wind. But I can guarantee that the next few years of offshore wind activity are going to be well worth keeping an eye on.

For more of a taste of the excitement around the Block Island project, check out what the National Wildlife Federation, the Conservation Law Foundation, Environment America, and the Natural Resources Defense Council each had to say. People are pretty pumped.

Posted in: Energy

Tags: Offshore wind, wind power

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John Rogers is energy campaign analytic lead at the Union of Concerned Scientists with expertise in clean energy technologies and policies and a focus on solar, wind, and natural gas. He co-managed the UCS-led Energy and Water in a Warming World Initiative, a multi-year program aimed at raising awareness of the energy-water connection, particularly in the context of climate change, and motivating and informing effective low-carbon and low-water energy solutions.