The United States, the world’s second-largest emitter of CO2, is faced with the task of converting its energy system from black to green. Offshore wind can help get the job done.
Danish energy company DONG Energy believes that the US has the perfect conditions for exploiting the potential of offshore wind. The company, which has built roughly a quarter of the world’s current offshore wind capacity, has acquired the rights to establish wind farms in two areas off the country’s east coast, and expects offshore wind energy to be cheaper than fossil energy within 10 years.
Clean energy conversion requires fresh thinking
The gradual conversion of US energy from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources has been ongoing since the energy crisis in the 1970s. The primary focus has been on energy from onshore wind turbines. Since 2000, the amount of energy generated by onshore wind has risen twentyfold, yet despite many years of preparations, the US is still awaiting its first offshore wind farm. DONG Energy, which already supplies offshore wind power to 18 million Europeans, will now be helping to change that.
So far, the US has been able to use the large, relatively sparsely populated areas of the Midwest to install onshore wind turbines. But implementing sustainable solutions to energy and environment problems around the cities and densely populated areas of the east coast and elsewhere in the country is a challenge – and that is where offshore wind comes into the picture.
”Offshore wind farms are an obvious local alternative to fossil power stations in metropolitan areas and the obvious way to ensure sustainable energy supplies for Americans in the future,” Brostrøm says.
The government-owned National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has identified a number of areas off the US coastlines that are suitable for wind farms. NREL estimates that these areas can
Some of the most suitable areas are off the eastern seaboard, where DONG Energy has provisionally acquired the rights to build two offshore wind farms. The seabed there is similar to that of Europe where offshore wind is the fastest-growing energy technology. DONG currently generates more than a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind power, and will be able to draw on this experience when developing the new wind farms in the United States.
The plan is that one of the offshore wind farms will be sited 90km off the coast of Massachusetts. From here, it will provide sustainable energy for citizens in and around Boston, while the other wind farm will be sited 24km off the coast of New Jersey. The first farm alone will be able to cover the power consumption of nearly half a million US homes. This is only possible because offshore wind is stronger and more reliable than onshore wind, consequently generating a greater output.
‘Green’ energy needs to be cheaper than black
Offshore wind is a young industry compared with coal and gas. That is also why clean energy from offshore wind still costs more than conventional. But the picture is changing. DONG Energy anticipates that clean energy from offshore wind will be cheaper than fossil energy within a decade.
Brostrøm points to the strong technological developments within offshore wind in recent years, which have brought about a significant reduction in costs.
”For one thing, the blade span of the wind turbines has more than doubled in about 15 years. Wind farms are getting bigger and can be located further out at sea, where they are out of sight and can take advantage of the higher wind speeds. At the same time, we’re continually getting better at standardizing and optimizing installation and maintenance of wind turbines. All this is helping to drive down costs, which ultimately means more green energy for our homes,” Brostrøm concludes.