Published on December 9th, 2011 | by Susan Kraemer


EU Invades US for Energy Resource – Offshore Wind

December 9th, 2011 by  

Not content with dominating the European off-shore renewable energy industry, European juggernauts of offshore wind have landed on the shores of Maine where they want to see if the US is good at making off-shore wind power too.

Norway’s Statoil, maker of the Hywind floating wind turbine in Europe (last year’s story: Oil Company Begins Wind Test of Off-Shore) is heading to the coast of Maine for a test of its Hywind floating turbine on these shores. Europe makes 99% of the offshore wind power in the world and is on track to build 141 GW more!!! over the next two decades. But Europe only has so much coastal water near population centers, suitable for off-shore wind. The USA however is… um, surrounded.

So while the US has busied itself digging up third world dictatorships for the energy to be gotten from under them, ton by laborious ton, Europe has moved on. Now it’s coming after a more permanent energy resource, in one of its former colonies.

Each floating Hywind unit from Statoil has a 2.3MW turbine on it made by Germany’s Siemens, the company that pretty much has a lock on offshore wind turbine production. The floating structure is a steel floater filled with ballast and it extends 100 m down (about 300 feet)  beneath the surface and is fastened to the seabed by three anchor wires.

The application is in response to a September 2010 request by the very progressive Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) for proposals for deepwater offshore wind or tidal energy pilot demonstration projects. Maine was one of the first states to set a renewable energy standard and as a result is now blessed with a 55% renewable electricity supply  – if you count hydro, which supplies about 30% of that total – however it is also highly dependent on oil for heating.

We have covered Maine’s test of substituting stored wind power for heating oil (Maine Residents Get $6000 to Store Wind as Slow Heating) using Steffes thermal energy storage units in homes. Islands off Maine provide more than 100% of its needs from wind at times. Previous story: Incentives for Thermal Energy Storage for Night. These projects are the result of Maine’s excellent coastal offshore wind potential.

The University of Maine’s public/private partnership at its  Advanced Structures and Composites Center would like to see Maine generate 5GW of power by 2030 with floating turbines, and given Maine’s very progressive energy policy history: that is a pretty good chance. The DeepCWind Consortium at the U of Maine includes universities, nonprofits, and utilities, plus companies that specialise in marine construction, design and structures, composite materials to assist in corrosion-resistant material design and selection, and environmental law and analysis.

However, Statoil is also considering Scotland for the test. It’s up to the reorganized Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which was broken out by this administration from the previous agency (the famously corrupt one that held cocaine parties with offshore oil driller applicants!) and then it will be up to FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) which fortunately has also changed leadership under this administration and is now run by the highly progressive Jon Wellinghoff, who gets it on renewables: see my Equal Pay for Negawatts and Megawatts Thanks to FERC.

But in the past, FERC has really dragged its feet on ocean energy development.

Which is why we don’t have any offshore wind industry and Europe does. But perhaps progressive Maine energy policy and the revamped BOEM and FERC can break through that now, with the help of Statoil the world leader in offshore wind development. Let’s hope so.

More from author Susan Kraemer 

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About the Author

writes at CleanTechnica, CSP-Today and Renewable Energy World.  She has also been published at Wind Energy Update, Solar Plaza, Earthtechling PV-Insider , and GreenProphet, Ecoseed, NRDC OnEarth, MatterNetwork, Celsius, EnergyNow, and Scientific American. As a former serial entrepreneur in product design, Susan brings an innovator's perspective on inventing a carbon-constrained civilization: If necessity is the mother of invention, solving climate change is the mother of all necessities! As a lover of history and sci-fi, she enjoys chronicling the strange future we are creating in these interesting times.    Follow Susan on Twitter @dotcommodity.

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  • Tiji

    A way for Maine to get off of its “…highly dependent on oil for heating.” issue is to move to a simple price effective carbon neutral solution… HAY like the stuff cows eat. There is a TED talk about it and it is simple home grown easy to grow. They us a furnace for you home or business it run on compressed hay pellets. The money stays local and avoids the volatile oil prices it requires very little input to grow. It only puts into the air the co2 the hay already pulled out and the next year it pulls co2 out of the air again. It carries the same heat energy as wood and is just below the energy found in coal.


    • Anonymous

      That’s one solution. For those who would like to avoid the pellet route Maine would seem to be an excellent place to install ground effect (geothermal) heat pumps.

  • Anonymous

    The European leaders in installed wind power capacity have anywhere between 2.5 to 5 times as much nameplate wind generation capacity per capita as the United States. Nevertheless, their dependency on fossil fuels is about the same as ours. The notion that Europe is virtuously avoiding the use of fossil fuels is a myth.

    The celebrated $6000 for Maine residents to buy heat storage units is also exaggerated. The wind developer that offered this to a town of about 25 households has withdrawn its application for the project. The Maine Dept. of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife deemed the project site inappropriate for large-scale wind development due to its likely negative impacts to many species of special interest wildlife.

    The developer is still threatening to press forward with the project anyway. Oh, and the people in that town showed virtually no interest in the $6000 heating unit grants. The fanfare of that “innovative” program dissolved pretty rapidly. It was much ado about nothing. This of course is not mentioned in this article.

    • BlueRock

      > …their dependency on fossil fuels is about the same as ours.

      Germany just exceeded 20% from renewables.

      > The notion that Europe is virtuously avoiding the use of fossil fuels is a myth.

      No, it’s a strawman that you just set up in order to knock back down. However, more renewables were deployed in Europe (and the US) in 2010 than fossils + nukes combined. That pattern is not changing.

  • Anonymous

    The economics will never be there, and this subsidy farce will do nothing more than increase electrical costs for US citizens.
    Stopping the 1603 grants and PTC should be the goal of any scientifically and economically oriented politician.
    This blow toy fad has already increased EU costs of electricity significantly (look at Netherlands), and also increased need for fossil fuel use because wind has no base load capacity,
    Wind will never power modernity, it only sucks subsidies.
    It is time this mature industry face economic reality with subsidy cessation.
    Doubling the kwh costs for end users will not be allowed.

    • Anonymous

      Dude, you are so far off kilter i don’t know if you are actually interested in looking at the facts or are paid to spread misinformation. Wind is the cheapest form of electricity in many places now, without subsidies!

      it drives the price of electricity DOWN.

      the 1603 and PTC does TONS & TONS more for us than the billions in dollars the fossil fuel industry gets in subsidies, and is one of the best investments the government makes.

      truthfully, after looking at this comments again, i can only assume that you work for the fossil fuel industry or have drunk some seriously out-of-date Kool Aid from the clean energy disinformation machine.

      There’s a reason why after years of booming wind energy growth the boom is projected to keep going at the same strength for years.

      There’s a reason more and more governments and investors are putting their money into wind rather than other energy sources. Think about it, dude — people spending millions or billions of dollars on these things know how to do math. And no one can convince them anymore that it doesn’t work,.. because wind is up all over the place and they can look at the results.

      • Do you have an extra 24 hours stashed away somewhere Zach? Can’t imagine how you deal with so much…

        • Anonymous

          i just cut into my sleep and any free time i might have 😀

          probably not healthy, but i enjoy what i do (for the most part :D)

          • Anonymous

            Much thanks for all your effort. I hope it pays off for you, it is for us.

          • Anonymous

            As far as i’m concerned, it does 😀

          • Anonymous

            What I really appreciate about this site is that it focuses on fixes.

            There are plenty sites which tell us why we need to change, but not many that tell us what we can do right now to create change.

            The vast majority of Americans want change and if they know what is possible then they can lean on their elected officials to drive policy to support solutions.

          • Anonymous

            Yeah, I struggled for a LOOONG time (and still do) on trying to make people see how imperative it is we change.

            But I think it inspiration, beauty, empowerment, evidence, and the “cool” factor that will really drive change — landed on CleanTechnica almost accidentally (wait, it was accidentally, on my part), but happy at where it’s taken me.

          • Anonymous

            If you want to stop an undesirable behavior the easiest way to do so is to teach an acceptable replacement behavior.

            Show people how we get away from fossil fuels, how we can do so now, how we can save money (and lives) by switching and people are much more likely to get with the program.

    • BlueRock

      As Zachary already explained, you’ve got it completely the wrong way around.

      This “blow toy fad” is driving down electricity costs – largely due to something called ‘merit order effect’.

      * Why wind is cutting energy costs. “So how does “expensive” wind deliver cheaper energy prices? By a mechanism known as the merit order effect…” http://www.climatespectator.com.au/commentary/why-wind-cutting-energy-costs

      * “…price-dampening effect that large amounts of lower cost renewable energy sources (such as wind power) can have on spot market prices. This is attributed in large part to what is called the merit order effect.[29][30] This has led to electricity price reductions in Spain,[31] Denmark,[24] and Germany.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feed-in_tariff#Effects_on_electricity_rates

      China are not investing billions of $$$s in wind (+ solar) because they’re a bunch of bong-smoking hippies. Think about it – or get a better anti-renewable talking point.

      • Anonymous

        And look what is happening in the middle of the night in Texas. Having lots of wind on their grid is driving the wholesale cost of electricity below zero at times. Because of a small PTC and no fuel costs wind can sell at or below $0.00/kWh and still make money. That pulls down the wholesale cost of power and ruins the future of coal.


        Now Texas needs some of that great $0.10/kWh to $0.15/kWh solar on its grid to bring down their daytime peak prices.

        Texas. USA. American taxpayer money has brought the cost of electricity down to next to nothing. Especially in the heat waves of summer when they have to shut down thermal power plants because they can’t provide enough cooling water.

        Subsidies for solar and wind have been incredibly successful investments in our energy future.

        • BlueRock

          Good info. Thanks.

          > That pulls down the wholesale cost of power and ruins the future of coal.

          Music to the eyeballs! 🙂

          Yup. Subsidies (better described as *investments*) have been incredibly successful wherever implemented – even if there are the occasional hiccups (e.g. Solyndra).

          Well, successful for everyone other than the Kochs, Exxon, Peabody, etc. 🙂


        • Tiji

          in addition to solar they could take advantage of all that night time cheap energy with some ice storage to offset the cooling cost for the AC systems during the day.


  • Alex T

    sad day for #localeconomy, EU should be prioritizing renewable resources close to home

    • They already did that: they have a staggering 141 GW of offshore wind in the pipeline. But it will be a happy day for Maine’s economy as my next post details…

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