Offshore wind is a mostly untapped industry in the United States, with only one offshore wind farm currently operating off of Block Island in Rhode Island. But New England is looking to change that within the next several years, continuing the trend with an offshore farm off of Massachusetts’ island, Martha’s Vineyard. So far three companies, Deepwater, DONG Energy and Vineyard Wind, have acquired federal lease auctions; bids and proposals will be submitted within this year, with a final decision regarding which company will be awarded the contract coming at the beginning of next summer.
These bids come as a directive from state legislature last year which stated that Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil must sign contracts with wind renewable energy companies in order to acquire 1,600 MW of offshore wind by 2027. The first project must incorporate at least 400 MW and the bids for this project had to be solicited by the end of June. Deepwater Wind is the company that is responsible for Block Island’s offshore farm and is New England-based while Dong Energy and Vineyard Wind are both based out of Denmark.
Although the proposals were released last week, the whole process is a lengthy one. “[The request for proposals] may change and be refined as it goes through a review…then it will be finalized and published on June 30,” said Bill White, senior director of offshore wind development for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC).
The MassCEC and AWS Truewind gathered data of wind speeds for the predicted region where the wind farm will be constructed, calling it the Massachusetts wind energy area (MAWEA). According to White, the average wind speed there is 10.2 meters per second (22.8 miles per hour), which is among the highest on the East Coast.
Nevertheless, compared to Europe, the US is behind in the offshore wind industry. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, more than 90% of offshore wind capacity is constructed in waters off the coast of eleven different European countries. The wind capacity from these farms, and the remaining 10%, generated a global capacity of almost 12,000 MW. Following the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, this means we are likely to reach up to 47,000 MW by 2020.