Many company executives and wind power stakeholders believe the U.S. offshore wind industry is turning a corner, with construction of more than one offshore project set to begin in 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). This week, industry members and government officials met at AWEA's 2014 Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition in Atlantic City to discuss the growing sector.
‘We are going to put steel in the water in 2015,’ said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the AWEA, during the conference. ‘By developing offshore wind power, we can create well-paying jobs, attract billions of dollars in private investment into our national economy and reduce carbon-dioxide emissions for generations to come."
AWEA says offshore wind projects off the coasts of Rhode Island and Massachusetts are aiming to start construction next year and bring an energy source familiar in Europe to the U.S. for the first time.
"This is the year it happens," said Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind, developer of the Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island and three other projects. "We are nine months away from the installation of our first foundations."
Also forging ahead is the Cape Wind project in Nantucket Sound, Mass. ‘It's an exciting time for the U.S. offshore wind industry," said Dennis Duffy, vice president of regulatory affairs for Energy Management Inc., developer for Cape Wind. "Cape Wind is closing its financing this fall and looking forward to the start of construction.’
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell delivered the keynote address at the AWEA conference, saying, ‘America's offshore areas contain tremendous wind energy potential."
"I am encouraged by the collaborative spirit and the thoughtful planning that has been the hallmark of our approach to ensure that development is realized in the right way and in the right places,’ said Jewell. ‘Offshore wind is an exciting new frontier that will help keep America competitive and expand domestic energy production, all without increasing carbon pollution.’
Although the U.S. offshore wind power industry is gaining momentum, AWEA says many industry leaders recognize that to maintain it, Congress must provide policy stability by extending both the production tax credit (primarily used by land-based projects) and the investment tax credit (used by offshore and community wind developers) by the end of the year.
AWEA's Kiernan emphasized this urgent need: "Congress must extend both these successful tax policies that have attracted up to $25 billion a year in new private investment to the U.S. economy. With these policies in place, wind power has been able to improve its technology and lower its costs by 58 percent over the last five years, saving consumers on their electric bills."
Regardless of policy uncertainty, many in the industry remain optimistic about U.S. offshore wind. John Kostyack, executive director of the Wind Energy Foundation, said, "After many years of hard work by members of the offshore wind community and its friends and allies, projects are going into the water soon. Once people see it, they know it's real; it's part of everyday business. Everything changes from here on out."