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America’s Offshore Wind Production Is About to Go Big

A new federal land lease will open the door to a surge in offshore wind development

The world's first large scale offshore wind farm in Denmark. The 80 turbine installation was completed in December 2002. (Jim Saylor/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

The amount of federal land available for offshore wind projects is about to triple. Next year, more than 742,000 acres of Massachusetts' coastal region will open for commercial wind development, says Fuel Fix.

The land lease would comprise a huge swath of offshore land just south of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket on the shallow Massachusetts continental slope.

According to the U.S. Department of the Interior, who are running the sale through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, full development of the site could result in a wind farm capable of producing 4 to 5 gigawatts of power.

Put a different way, the Department of the Interior says that this much wind power could generate enough electricity to run half the houses in Massachusetts—roughly 1.4 million homes.

This would be a huge project. According to the Wind Energy Foundation, as of the second quarter of 2014 the U.S. has just 60 gigawatts of installed wind power capacity. In Europe, the total installed wind capacity is higher, at 110.7 gigawatts, though just 6.6 gigawatts of this is offshore, says the European Wind Energy Association.

According to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, in the U.S. there are 4,223 gigawatts of offshore wind power just waiting to be tapped—four times the amount of power currently used in the U.S.

Offshore wind has long been hampered by expensive start-up costs and “local opposition,” says USA Today, though that seems to be turning around. Already, the paper reports, roughly 4.9 gigawatts-worth of offshore wind infrastructure is undergoing planning and development in the U.S., with this new land lease set to give the burgeoning industry a big kick.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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