Thursday, December 17, 2009

Offshore wind energy faces stiff challenges

In an informative article yesterday (US Offshore Wind Project Updates ) Renewable Energy World staff writer Graham Jesmer reports on the considerable obstacles faced by the intrepid companies that are seeking to convert offshore winds into the electricity that lights our homes and powers our workplaces.

While the proposed projects he reviews off the coasts of New Jersey, Delaware, Massachusetts and New York vary in size, distance from shore, and in their prospects for finding utilities to purchase their electrons, they all face similar challenges.

First and foremost, he says, is the lack of the vessels needed to construct the wind farms.

"There are currently no vessels in the U.S. equipped to install these turbines, and while a number of them exist in Europe they cannot simply be brought across the Atlantic Ocean and put to work," he writes.

But within every challenge lies an opportunity. Bluewater Wind's CEO Peter Mandelstam says building just three wind-specific vessels will create more than 7,000 green jobs for U.S. ports and ship builders.

Two other sizable hurdles? The projects also all need transmission lines and utilities willing to buy the electricity they carry, Jesmer says.

But possibly "the largest challenge facing U.S. offshore wind energy developers," he writes, is the lack of a "stable (national) policy and incentive regime that would bring more players into the industry, from all sides."

Despite that challenge, Mandelstam, for one, remains optimistic.

"The most important investor, the most important advocate and the most important public official for offshore wind is President Barack Obama," he says.

"This industry was dead, but the restructuring of the tax credit, the loan guarantees, the various stimulus provisions and the new regulatory regime totally revived us. We can't say enough good things about President Barack Obama."

Related environmental news:
Maine identifies 3 offshore wind-power test sites
Deepwater Wind Signs PPA for First Offshore Wind Farm
China the new challenger for world wind leadership
How offshore wind energy won in Delaware
Delaware: First to sign and the first to spin?
Will NRG save Bluewater's wind projects?
Offshore Rhode Island wind power at a dead calm
Wind energy out to hook fishing industry support

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