U.S. Offshore Wind Score: 3 Hits, 0 Runs

In the first part of this series we compared the progress made in the permitting and construction of near-offshore wind farms in Northern Europe with the progress made in the U.S. in the years since Cape Wind was initially proposed. The score, you might remember, is 13 completed, 11 under construction or contract ‘over there’, against zero over here. Some of our players on the Atlantic seaboard, however, are at least making an attempt to hit a single or two, even without management (i.e., Administration) support.

Faced with a 59% increase in residential electricity rates last year, the State of Delaware set a renewable portfolio standard mandating that 10% of its power come from renewable sources by 2018. Obligated by the state to find new power sources, the local utility evaluated proposals for natural gas plants, coal gasification plants, and a 200-turbine offshore wind farm.

At a Public Service Commission public hearing on the issue, every resident who spoke supported the proposed wind farm over the fossil fuel alternatives, and on May 27th this year the utility was ordered to negotiate a long-term power purchase agreement with the wind farm developer.

New York
Further up the coast and four miles off Jones Beach, Long Island, is the site of another proposed wind farm, the Long Island Power Authority’s (LIPA) 40-turbine facility, capable of generating 140MW or enough for about 44,000 homes. While the LIPA project is at approximately the same point in the permitting process as Cape Wind, it has the advantage of a 20-year power purchase contract already in place between LIPA and the developer.

Rhode Island
In April, Governor Carcieri announced a plan whose ultimate goal is to generate 15% of Rhode Island’s electricity, or 150 MW, from wind by the year 2012. He released a study that identified ten shallow-water sites in Rhode Island and Block Island Sounds, out of shipping channels but mostly within state waters, where wind farms would be economically feasible.

In preparing for the plan Lefteris Pavlides, Architecture Professor at Roger Williams University, laid the groundwork for public acceptance with information forums. “For every person who found (wind turbines) ugly, there were ten people who found them beautiful… There’s very strong support for wind energy in Rhode Island,” he said.

And so to the Bay State and Horseshoe Shoal, future site of the Cape Wind project. Both the Army Corps of Engineers and the Minerals Management Service have identified several other sites as potential additional (though less viable) locations for wind farms. None has yet been the subject of a serious, well-researched proposal.

One such site, south of Tuckernuck Island, has been identified by Congressman Delahunt as a possible contender for congressional funding for a viability study, even though its exposed location would lead to increased risks and higher construction costs. However, a modest development in the order of 100 MW on part of the site could conceivably provide more than enough power for Nantucket Island.

Last of all is the town of Hull, which with its municipality status has more control over its energy destiny than any community so far mentioned. The outstanding success of Hull’s two onshore turbines has led the town to propose the construction of four large turbines on Harding’s Ledge, about two miles offshore.

Box Score
So, if we count wind farms in the permitting stage (Cape Wind and LIPA) as hits, and wind farms under proposal (Delaware and Hull) as half-hits, we can give Team America a total of three hits. No runs yet, and here, perhaps, is why not: in the case of Delaware and Rhode Island, we have state governments providing a lead; with LIPA, it’s a regional authority, with Cape Wind it’s a private developer and with Hull it’s a single town. Those 24 European projects were completed or are on the construction track with the full blessing, direction and assistance of their national governments.

Global warming, energy independence and pollution control are problems of planetary scale; we should be taking a planet-wide approach to the adoption of renewables to address these problems. Other countries are at least taking a national approach or, in the case of the EU, a continent-wide approach. We can’t even get our national team manager to show up for the game.

Chris Stimpson and Charles Kleekamp are on the Board of Directors of Clean Power Now. Stimpson is the Executive Campaigner and Activist for the Solar Nation advocacy group (solar-nation.org). He performs secretarial duties for Clean Power Now, and lends his creative skills to the advertising and publicity efforts of the organization.

Charles Kleekamp is a founding director and Vice-President of Cape Clean Air, a citizen advocacy group whose mission is to engage the public and inform citizens about the health impacts of power plant emissions. He is also the Information Director of Clean Power Now.

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