Recently, the first prototype off-shore wind turbine in the US was launched off the coast of Maine. Off-shore wind energy holds a lot of promise – or at least, the companies participating in a recent ocean rights auction seem to think so. Deepwater Energy won development rights on a 165,000 acre piece of land for the sum of $3.8 million. That’s a hefty sum, but the company definitely thinks the price is worth it.
Offshore Wind Potential
Offshore farms are nothing new in the world of wind energy, but the US still doesn’t have one. The auctioned land, which is located off the coast of Rhode Island, is perfect for a wind farm; the steady breezes and lack of obstructions take care of any technical needs, while the distance from high-traffic areas takes care of the complaints that wind farms typically generate.
Of course, offshore projects in the US have been attempted before. Bluewater Wind, a project run by NRG energy, was put on an indefinite hold in 2012. Cape Wind is still in the financing stage, and doesn’t project that they’ll have the funding they need until 2015. Even the images of turbines on their site are just artists representation.
One large problem is actually constructing turbines out on the water. There are two main options: make the turbine float, or find a way to build it from the ocean floor. If you’re close to land, the second option works just fine; but this makes the idea of getting turbines away from residential areas a moot point.
The difficulty isn’t just in the technical aspects; after all, there are countless wind farms in Europe already. The main difficulty is finding investors willing to finance these expensive and potentially risky projects. If Deepwater Energy has the funding they need to create a complete wind farm, they’ll be ahead of the curve – in the United States, at least.
How Will the Land be Used?
Right now, Deepwater Energy has the rights to the land, but there’s a time limit. The company has 4 years to come up with a plan and set it in motion. Basically, they’ve got a rather expensive reservation. If they do something with it, they’ll get to keep the land and the profits from it. But if they fail to develop it, rights will likely be passed onto another hopeful company.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which ran the auction, will be holding another on September 4th. The goal is to encourage the development of clean energy; by creating competitive auctions and placing a time limit on the lease, companies are incentive to complete their research as quickly and effectively as possible. With any luck, we’ll be seeing offshore turbines within the next 5 years, although it may take longer.
If the project is successful, the United States will finally catch up to Europe in the use of cleaner and cheaper energy. The land purchased by Deepwater Energy could power over a million homes, if used correctly. Keep an eye on the coasts; they’ll be dotted with turbines in no time.