Pathetic US Offshore Wind Failure

Well, here’s the latest from the Boston Globe on the only offshore wind farm that is anywhere near operation in the US:

Cape Wind Associates said Monday that it has finalized a major deal with the German conglomerate Siemens AG to buy giant turbines, the offshore transformer, and maintenance services for its planned multibillion-dollar wind farm in Nantucket Sound.

Cape Wind will not begin major construction until next year at the earliest, but Gordon said the Siemens deal and other capital investments mean the project should meet the threshold for the credits.

So this relatively small 420 MW wind farm may start construction in 2014, or it may not.  After 15 years of active resistance from a bizarre alliance of former MA Gov. Mitt Romney, Sen. Ted Kennedy, his nephew Robert Kennedy, Jr. and the Koch brothers, Cape Wind has only signed a contract for its turbines.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic in England, here is what has been happening:

The United Kingdom’s offshore wind sector installed capacity has grown by 79% over the period of July 2012 to June 2013, according to a new report released by trade group RenewableUK.

London Array - The world's largest offshore wind farm

London Array – The world’s largest offshore wind farm

The installed capacity of the UK’s offshore wind sector grew from 1,858 MW to 3,321 MW over the period, thanks in part to four massive wind farms going operational at Greater Gabbard, Gunfleet Sands III, Sheringham Shoal, and London Array. It helped that the London Array is the world’s largest offshore wind farm, measuring in at 630 MW.

Including onshore wind into the equation, a growth of over 40% was seen over the period in the UK, but the real prize was offshore, with more wind capacity installed offshore than onshore for the first time ever. Onshore did OK, but only managed a growth of 25%, measuring in at 1,258 MW of new capacity coming into operation over the July’12-June’13 period.


Yes, you read those numbers right.  In the same time period while the US decided it might or might not build a 420 MW wind farm, the English have built 3321 MW of installed offshore capacity.

Instead of building renewable power generation right next to major US population centers, US politicians, regulators and power companies have focused on building huge transmission lines to bail out obsolete coal-fired power plants and the construction of new natural gas fired plants that promise become very expensive to run when the shale gas bubble finishes deflating.

And I didn’t even mention that the construction, maintenance and operation of Atlantic offshore wind farms would generate a renaissance of US east coast port cities like Baltimore, Brooklyn, Norfolk and Portland.  But no one in the US seems interested.  The US used to be a country that relished big industrial and engineering challenges.  Those days appear to be gone.

This is what failure looks like.

3 thoughts on “Pathetic US Offshore Wind Failure

  1. This is what corporate control of the political process and the media looks like. Not that they don’t have that in the UK too–but it isn’t as complete as here.

    • Right after I hit post, I went back and added the sentences about the east coast port cities. I was also going to add a sentence that described exactly what you point out in your comment. I deleted that one, because I wanted to keep the post focused on the failure of the US itself.

      But you are exactly right, and your comment gives me a chance to expand on your point. The US political class is now dominated by fearful anti-science bigots. The huge corporations that control investment in the US electrical system, both investment bankers and power companies, are far more interested in protecting the asset value of existing power plants (and thus their companies’ own book value) than they are rebuilding the US electrical system. They have successfully steered US energy policy down the suicidal fossil fuel path to protect their own wealth.

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