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Recent Policy Movement In Northeast US Could Start Offshore Wind Boom

Recent policy moves in the states of Massachusetts and New York could initiate a long-awaited offshore wind energy boom in the United States.

Offshore-Windpark alpha ventusThe global offshore wind energy market is growing rapidly, and at the end of 2015 was reported to have reached 12 GW — with several more GW in the pipeline. Europe unsurprisingly leads the way, with the European Wind Energy Association claiming it makes up the lion’s share of all global offshore wind capacity.

What continues to baffles many analysts, however, is the lack of development across the pond in the United States.

There was a lot of hope, several years ago, with many years of planning and policy seemingly about to come to a head with the construction of the 430 MW Cape Wind Offshore Wind Farm off the coast of Cape Cod in Massachusetts. However, plans for Cape Wind disintegrated, and the only project currently under construction in US waters is the measly 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island.

There is hope that the state of Rhode Island will be a dominant driver of offshore wind energy growth in the years to come, with the state’s General Assembly recently signing on to an extended renewable energy standard that set a goal of generating 38.5% of the state’s electricity from renewables.

However, in recent months, several moves have been made that might see Rhode Island joined by east coast neighbors New York and Massachusetts.

New York Wind Energy Area mapIn early June, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) announced that it would be participating in the US Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) commercial offshore wind energy lease auction for sites off the coast of Long Island.

The move is described as “a critical component” of meeting New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s clean energy goals, which includes generating 50% of the state’s electricity from renewables by 2030.

“Offshore wind will bring clean energy and economic development to New York’s coastal communities, growing the state’s economy and supporting Governor Cuomo’s commitment to protecting the environment,” said John B. Rhodes, President and CEO, NYSERDA. “Offshore wind offers our state great promise and NYSERDA is committed to ensuring this vast renewable energy resource is developed in a cost-effective way to augment New York’s energy infrastructure.”

The lease site is a 81,000-acre area located off the south coast of Long Island, off the Rockaway Peninsula.

Deepwater-1In late June and early July, the Massachusetts House and Senate both passed a bill (the Senate unanimously) that would the state to begin soliciting contracts for as much as 2 GW of offshore wind energy as soon as 2027.

The bill, which was drafted in early May, could help trigger a $10 billion development pipeline, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance analyst Tom Harries.

Already, DONG Energy, Deepwater Wind, and Offshore MW have leases from the US Government to build in waters south of Martha’s Vineyard (see right), though Deepwater Wind is the only one in progress with the aforementioned 30 MW Block Island Wind Farm.

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