Offshore winds blowing off the US Atlantic Coast could produce four times more electricity each year than the region currently uses, according to a report by the Environment Maine Research and Policy Center.
Offshore wind could provide the states with 4,574 terawatt hours of energy, even after excluding areas not suitable for current technology and off-limits areas like shipping lanes, the "Wind Power to Spare: The Enormous Energy Potential of Atlantic Offshore Wind" report states.
Twelve out of fourteen coastal states have offshore wind potential that exceeds their current electricity consumption, the center reported, adding that even if the 14 states converted all activities currently powered by gasoline, natural gas and other fossil fuels, such as transportation and home heating, to electricity, the energy provided by offshore wind turbines could still produce twice as much power as they would use.
According to the Environment Maine Research and Policy Center, policymakers and regulatory bodies must put in place strong policies to foster the development of offshore wind, while ensuring the protection of oceans and wildlife.
Supportive policies include state offshore wind targets, policies to ensure a strong market for offshore wind, investments in research, and efforts to work with the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to ensure environmentally responsible and efficient development of resources.
Policymakers must also create minimum standards for the protection of ocean habitats and wildlife, particularly the North Atlantic right whale, the center said.
Several US Atlantic Coast states have recently committed to developing over 8GW of offshore wind capacity by 2030, with New Jersey leading the pack with a 3.5GW target, followed by New York’s 2.4GW commitment.
Massachusetts aims at adding 1.6GW, with Maryland committing to two projects with a combined capacity of some 368MW. Connecticut’s recently issued Request for Proposals (RfP) pushed the overall offshore wind target over the 8GW mark.
The Atlantic Coast is home to the only US operating offshore wind farm, the 30MW Block Island in Rhode Island, developed by Deepwater Wind.