ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY-- The first European wind farm was installed in Denmark in 1991. The Danes had no real choice, having no stake in the offshore oil drilling industry in the North Atlantic. The story they tell outsiders over a pint in the local pubs is that their king got drunk and signed over the oil rights in their waters to Norway. Regardless of how it started, Europe now leads the world in offshore wind generation.
The U.S. has lagged far behind, but there are now multiple wind farm projects under construction in the waters of the Northeast. According to the Yale School of Environment, at least three large operations are set to begin generating in the next few years.
"About 60 miles east of New York’s Montauk Point, a 128,000-acre expanse of the Atlantic Ocean is expected to produce enough electricity to power around 850,000 homes when it’s populated with wind turbines and connected to the onshore grid in the next few years.
Fifteen miles off Atlantic City, New Jersey, another windy swath of ocean is due to start generating enough power for some 500,000 homes when a forest of 850-foot-high turbines starts turning there in 2024.
And off the Virginia coast some 200 miles to the south, a utility-led offshore wind project is scheduled to produce carbon-free power equivalent to taking 1 million cars off the road when it is complete in 2026."
Seven states, including New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Maryland have committed to buying enough energy to power roughly 20 million homes, according to the American Clean Power Association (ACPA), which advocates for renewable energy. Projects totaling 11,000 MW have been awarded so far.
Construction and maintenance of the turbines generate jobs. Global consulting firm Wood Mackenzie estimates roughly 38,000 direct and indirect jobs in the New York and New Jersey area until at least 2030. Even larger workforce increases are expected to take place in the coastal areas of Maine and South Carolina. Some of the turbine components will be U.S. manufactured. The projects are already creating jobs in the form of specialty marine equipment.
Shipbuilder Edison Chouest Offshore (ECO), is cashing in on that building boom, at the same time it continues to build ships used in offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. It also has the distinction of building (and owning) the first U.S.- built Viking River cruise ship, set to sail the Mississippi River beginning in August 2022.
How soon will the turbines begin generating?
A farm 15 miles off the coast of Martha's Vineyard is likely to be the first to begin commercial operations, as early as 2023. It is awaiting approval from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the U.S. Interior Department agency that awards ocean leases and oversees wind farm development in federal waters
New Jersey should not be far behind, with the 1,100 megawatt Ocean Wind project set to begin production in 2024. Under its new Economic Recovery Act, New Jersey is offering a tax credit to offshore wind developers or owners who invest at least $50 million in a qualified project. The state has also announced plans for a Wind Institute to provide education, research, and workforce training for the industry.
Not everyone is happy with land-based windfarms
Residents of Central Texas, which is now being inundated with turbine construction complain of noise and light pollution, human and wildlife endangerment, as well as creating new road hazards as the construction parts and equipment move through quiet rural areas.
According to a study released last year by the BOEM, Texas stands to benefit eventually from the same boom the Northeast is seeing now. Many in the state are actually surprised it has not led the way in the offshore wind industry. Perhaps the difference is the cost of both construction and maintenance, something Texas felt the pinch of during its February ice storm that left millions without power statewide due to critical shortages on the state's power grid.