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Published on September 14th, 2012 | by Silvio Marcacci


300,000 Jobs and $200 Billion Economic Potential from U.S. Offshore Wind

September 14th, 2012 by  

America has some of the best offshore wind resources in the world — especially along the Atlantic coastline. But while the promise is massive, zero turbines are currently spinning in U.S. waters.

Fortunately, federal and state governments have made significant progress toward the first offshore turbines and have put America at a turning point toward harnessing the more than 1,300 gigawatts (GW) of energy generation potential identified along our coasts. Harnessing a realistic fraction of offshore wind’s potential — 52GW — could power 14 million homes with clean electrons while creating over 300,000 new jobs and $200 billion in new economic activity in some of our biggest cities.

These findings come from “The Turning Point for Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy,” a new report from the National Wildlife Foundation (NWF) outlining the energy and economic benefits offshore wind could create in the U.S., highlighting progress made to date, and detailing policy action needed to realize the industry’s potential.

Federal Policy + State Action = Turbines

While it seems like offshore wind has been touted for years, the future is closer to reality than ever before. The federal government has designated over 2,000 square nautical miles of federal waters with high wind speeds and low potential conflicts for wind energy, with leases expected by the end of 2012.

These areas dovetail with efforts across 10 states comprising much of the Atlantic seaboard to promote offshore wind and streamline the leasing process. In addition, Maine, Massachusetts, and New Jersey have set offshore wind energy generation goals for their states.

The result of all this policy action has been a host of proposals. The oft-delayed Cape Wind project off Massachusetts is expected to begin construction in 2013, and the federal government is currently reviewing lease applications for a utility-scale project in New York, a floating turbine pilot project in Maine, and the Atlantic Wind Connection undersea transmission line. In addition, wind farm proposals are advancing in Rhode Island and New Jersey.

Grid Reliability and Price Benefits

Beyond creating new jobs and economic activity building and operating all these new turbines, plugging offshore wind into our nation’s grid can increase reliability and lower utility prices. Offshore winds blow strongest during the day and in heat waves – precisely the points when demand for electricity is highest and the risk of power shortages most acute.

In addition, the greatest potential wind power lies along some of the East Coast’s biggest cities. Grid congestion has constrained the ability of cheaper power to reach these demand pools and created some of the highest power prices in the country. But if these population centers could tap into steady electricity being generated just offshore, growing demand could be met cheaply. In fact, New York State’s grid operator recently found consumers save $300 million in wholesale electricity costs for every 1GW of wind on the grid.

Global Competition to Lead the Industry

Looking past our shores, the global economic stakes couldn’t be higher. Europe’s offshore wind boasts 4 GW of capacity, powers 4 million homes, and employs 40,000 with 300,000 total jobs forecast by 2020. Meanwhile, China has 260 megawatts (MW) of capacity currently built and plans 30GW by 2020 – enough to power 10 million homes. Statistics like these illustrate how our opportunity to lead the offshore wind industry slips away with each day of inaction.

So how can America harness the power of the wind? NWF has outlined four steps for federal and state policymakers to follow:

  1. Set goals for offshore wind energy development in the Atlantic Ocean and renewable energy generation across the U.S.
  2. Target tax credit, procurement, and funding actions to level the playing field for offshore wind.
  3. Ensure offshore wind projects are sited, constructed, and operated responsibly.
  4. Increase stakeholder coordination and public engagement.

“America’s Atlantic coast has some of the best offshore wind energy resources in the world, the technology to harvest it is ready right now, and we have workers ready to do the job,” said Catherine Bowes, NWF senior manager for new energy solutions. “We need to take advantage of this golden opportunity to make our electricity supply cleaner, more wildlife-friendly, and more secure.”

Offshore wind turbine photo via Shutterstock

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About the Author

Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate policy public relations company based in Oakland, CA.

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  • Unlimited wind resources won’t be tapped if RepugnantCONs lobbying for nuke or coal e. have their say. Get out and vote.

  • It’s about 173 kW per job of installed power, or about 50 kW of average. At that rate, 1 in 40 Americans should tend these horrible windmils, making 5+ pc of workforce.
    52 GW for $200B is $3850/kW of rated or about $12.000/kW of average power. Koreans are making quite decent and exceedingly safe nukes for $3500/kW of average power, Chinese for half that much. And, by the way, nukes produce juice on demand where you need it and last 80+ years.

    • Bob_Wallace

      And only a few melt down….

      The cost of power produced kills new nuclear. Just ask utility companies, many have made public announcements to that effect.

      Those “horrible” windmills are producing our cheapest electricity. And many of us think them absolutely beautiful. We’ve glimpsed what a future overheated planet would look like.

      • Forget USA, it’s 5% of humanity, and an exotic country with its peculiar institutions. Who killed nuclear power? Who killed electric car? Who killed public transit? Who killed flowering economy by lost oil-war in Iraq? It’s general knowledge that nuc program was botched in USA. France solved in 10y all its power problems for good by going nuclear. Sweden is 50% nuclear (the rest is hydro), building new plants. Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Bulgaria, India, Iran, Finland, Koreas, UK, Emirates, Saudis, Turkey, Vietnam, you name it, are all in shoping spree, building new nukes. China plans in 2010-2020-2030-2050 to go 10-80-200-500 nuc GW, in ten years since taking primacy from USA and buying 50 AP1000 plants just as first step. And in all these nations experts decided that nuc is the safest, the cleanest and the most economic technology. Then something is wrong with USA, not with nuc power. In its good days, it put man on moon, while now fiddles with these disgusting Phoenician contraptions. The passing of the great nation.

        • Luke

          I’m sorry, but what exactly do you want to do when the uranium runs out?

          What you haven’t mentioned is Germany, who is in a nuclear power phase out, and their wholesale electricity costs have never been cheaper thanks to solar and wind.

          You’ve deluded yourself into thinking America is great. It’s not. It’s only a country. It’s not something to get all reflective and mellow about. Stop worrying.

          • Yes, uranium and thorium could run out, by according to my calculations in about billion years — if only terrestrial sources are taken into account.
            Uranium is, by the way, a renewable resource, as each year rivers bring about 40 000 of it into world oceans. Breeders could make extraction worthwhile (they are almost insensitive to cost of uranium), and 40 000 t of U correspond to about 80 billion of mt of oil or 120 billions of mt of coal, about enough to bring up all the world to US level of power consumption and then some.
            As for Germany, read Spiegel Online (in English). It’s total disaster. The passing of another great nation. This hysteria will cost them almost as the last one.
            Well, about American greatness. USA is a great nation. The problem is that it is not the only one, as many Americans are too often inclined to think. And surely too peculiar that could serve as a model and indicator for the rest of the world.

        • Ronald Brak

          So you are using China as an arguement against wind power when China generates more electricity from wind than from nuclear? Is this what chutzpah is?

          • The dirty trick about clean energy is that its proponents always use rated power in their comparisons. However, for real production it has to be multiplied by load factor, i.e. ratio between average and rated (maximal) production. For nukes it’s over 0.9, for wind 0.2-0.3, for solar 0.1-0.25. So 1 GW of nuc rated power coresponds to 3-5 GW of wind or 4-10 GW of solar. Now make your comparisons.

          • Bob_Wallace

            Actually predrag, you are wrong once more.

            Wind farms are now turning in 50% capacity outputs with better siting and improvement in technology.

            PV solar runs 18.8% to 29% ‘nameplate’ in the lower 48 except for a small stretch along the Pacific Northwest Coast, which just isn’t a good place for solar.

            Nuclear is about 90% for the plants that are still running. But when they go tits up like Chrystal River and San Onofre they are 0%.

            And what you aren’t saying (and well know that you should) is that realized capacity is not the important statistic, the important one is cents/kWh output. And there nuclear looses very big time, coming in at more expensive than solar and far, far more expensive than wind.

            But thanks for playing. Collect your consolation prize at the door on your way out….

          • Ronald Brak

            Predrag, I wrote generates. China generates more electricity from wind than nuclear. I would say that lecturing people about capacity factors while not even bothering to look up China’s wind generation could be classed as chutzpah.

          • Wiki says for China 2011: nuc 1.94%, wind 0.26%.

          • Ronald Brak

            It’s September 2012 and China has something like 75 gigawatts of wind capacity and nuclear power plants there have had a lot of down time lately for safety checks and reviews for some reason. Oh yeah, I remember why, Fukushima!

          • Well, you rised my brows, thanks. Boy, they are fast. However, 75 GW wind correspond to less than 20 GW nuc, and wind is no good for more than 15-20% of the share anyway. On top of that, that has nothing to do with nukes themselves; will is not lacking, problem is means. Bottleneck for nukes in China is lack of experience and operators. Wind is quick-fix solution in the fast developing county, they must get power by hook or by crook. And there is dilemma between old and tested French Gen II and new Gen III+ AP1000 nukes, that has to be resolved by performance of the first two reactors. That has nothing to do with Fuku.

          • yep, wind turbines go up fast and cheaply.

            one of their advantages.

            projections change. the world will see within 20-50 years how many nukes get built vs how many wind turbines & solar panels get built.

          • Ronald Brak

            Oh, and by the way, the capacity factor for nuclear isn’t 90%. It was 84.8% in 2010 and has taken a nose dive since then for some strange reason.

          • Wiki lists as typical capacity factors in USA:
            Wind farms: 20-40%
            PV: Mass 12-15%, Arizona 19%
            Nuc 2010: 91.2 (for an aged, obsolete fleet!)

          • Ronald Brak

            You said nuclear, not US nuclear. The capacity factor of nuclear in 2010 was 84.8% in 2010 and has gone down since then for some reason. Some Japanese guy swore at a nuclear worker called Shima or something.

          • That has nothing to do with regular performance of nukes. This statistical drop in load factor is direct consequence of political decision to stop plants in Germany and Japan. Speaking about long-term, it is regularly over 90%.
            As for swearing… It’s argument hands down.

          • believe it or not, nuclear disasters happen. they happen less regularly than birthday, perhaps, but they happen. and that’s included in their capacity factor. and having to shut down because of heat waves is, as well. word on the street is, 330 months in a row of above average temps is a trend that will continue, and will only continue to hurt nuke capacity factors.

            the idea that nukes won’t be shut down from disaster is idealistic thinking.
            and a big point: such unpredictable shutdowns are a huge problem, more so than realizing that the sun comes up and goes down every day and planning around that is necessary.

          • Wiki says for China 2011: nuc 1.94%, wind 0.26%.

      • Luke

        +1, couldn’t have said it better Bob.

    • Ross

      Off-shore prices will come down. There is much more competitive on-shore wind and solar that can be harnessed in the meantime. Investment in nuclear is a great way for a utility to go bust and you can be sure none of them will without taxpayer funded bailout guarantees. The nuclear power era is fizzling out. The Japanese have just decided to phase there’s out. Nuclear medicine will decline as more sophisticated genomic medicine grows. Nuclear fission of all varieties is low-tech not high-tech. The only people pursuing it now are doing it for its original reason – producing atomic bombs.

      • Nuclear era is fizzling out? Humans discovered the prime mover that turns the skies, just to turn their backs to it and return to technology of preindustrial era? Now take a deep breath and think about what you just said. Yes, nobody can tell which nuclear technology will prevail and when, which kind of fission, fusion or LENR, which type of reactor will take the prize, but just to think that nuclear era is over for the sake of wood gathering and Roman Age windmills… Think about it. Do yor homework. Google. You are not stupid.

        • Luke

          So because nuclear is more technically advanced, that makes it a better choice? That’s some of the poorest logic I’ve seen.

          The better choice is one that should be judged by elegance, simplicity, cleanliness and cost effectiveness. Not the number of wires, not the tons of steel, not the size of the nuclear repository.

          • Immerse in the history of technology and you’ll understand the trend.
            There is nothing elegant in wind turbines, their simplicity is simplicity not of genius, but of simpleton. They go against the grain of all good engineering.
            As for simplicity, nukes are simplicity itself, if you understand them. And they are based on well tested technology, attested by their octagenarian life span.
            As for tonnes of steel, windmills use 20-100x more steel for equal power. Just for illustration: a pilot for offshore windmill of 5 MW rated power (or 1.5 MW averaged over the year) weights over 700 mt. The reactor vessel of EPR1600 (about 1500 MW of average power, or 1000x as much), weights about 450 mt.
            Not everything simple is elegant. Sometimes it’s just stupid.
            As for repository, it’s just another myth. No repository worthy of its name is needed at all. So called “waste” is not waste at all, but simple fuel for next generation of reactors. Only idiot could dump this valubale resource underground. Let it safely stay in dry casks, waiting for its time.

        • Bob_Wallace

          Let me share something with you that just popped up today…

          Cheap gas could push costly nuclear power out of the US energy mixNuclear power operators, including Duke Energy Corp, which faces a billion-dollar repair bill to fix a reactor dubbed ‘Humpty Dumpty’ on account of its fractured concrete shell, are finding that compared with natural gas, atomic energy is struggling in the marketplace.
          A damaged nuclear plant in Florida that spurred a boardroom coup at Duke Energy Corp in July is at risk of being scrapped unless the power company can justify spending more than US$1.3 billion on the costliest-ever US atomic repair.Duke’s decision, a signpost for utilities from Japan to Belgium which are considering shuttering reactors, hinges on natural gas. Near-record low prices in the US make new gas-fired generation look more economical than fixing the 35-year-old Crystal River Unit 3 Station. The question for Duke, the biggest US power company, is whether to bet that gas will stay this low in the decades to come.”

          Now, NG is unlikely to stay as cheap as it is today, but wind is already that cheap and solar is on the way.Reactors are teetering on the edge right now. Factor in the possibility of a crumbling containment dome, a fire, or one of other expensive breakdowns we’ve seen reactors have and wise money does not build reactors.

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