U.S. Offshore Wind: A Government Pipe Dream 

Posted: October 7, 2015 by oldbrew in Energy, government, wind

Troubled waters for US wind power?

Troubled waters for US wind power?

Economic, engineering, legal and political problems are plaguing the advance of the US government’s offshore wind dream, reports Master Resource.

“Offshore wind is essentially a government-made market that would not exist in the U.S. but for a massive intervention from Washington and an ‘at-any-cost’ mentality at the state level. Of the alleged 15,650 MW of offshore wind in DOE’s pipeline, a very small fraction represents projects proffered by private entities.”

It’s official. At a White House summit last month, the Obama administration publicly backed its new government program – offshore wind. With America’s first offshore project now under construction, and the Department of Energy’s (DOE) latest analysis  showing 21 projects totaling 15,650 megawatts in the works, the political boost could trigger a development boom.

But don’t count on it. The already uneconomic on land is only worse off in the waters.

Washington’s Wishful Thinking

Washington’s support for wind power is ideological, steeped in wishful thinking about what could be built, both on- and off- shore. Since 2008, DOE has pumped out reports propagandizing the benefits and feasibility of wind while regularly downplaying its costs. First came the roadmap for reaching 20% Wind Power by 2030, which meant constructing 305,000 MW of wind by 2030, including 54,000 MW offshore.

After that came a series of wind-friendly papers claiming intermittent wind improves grid reliability, lowers energy costs and won’t harm residential property values. This year DOE released its updated Wind Vision, reinforcing the 20%, by 2030 goal with an important caveat that federal subsidies stay and our communities concede to bigger, taller turbines. And now comes DOE’s new report plugging U.S. offshore wind.

To its credit, the report offers a valuable summary of the offshore wind market but the details were lost in the media blitz that followed. The web was flooded with stories announcing the 21 project, 15,650 megawatt pipeline leading readers to believe we’re on the verge of something big. The numbers were unexpected, impressive …and not real.

Full report: U.S. Offshore Wind: A Government Pipe Dream – Master Resource

Master Resource concludes:
The rest of us are expected to cooperate by looking past the poor economics. Such cooperation is short-lived and will not change the fact that offshore wind is hardly worth the effort.

So why waste money in this sector when lower-cost, more realistic options exist for reducing our carbon emission? The obvious answer is that we should not. But don’t expect a reasoned response from this Washington.

  1. So the US is following the UK recipe for an offshore wind policy disaster. Governments never learn.

  2. oldbrew says:

    Science of Doom has a new post in a series on wind power.

    ‘Renewables XIII – One of Wind’s Hidden Costs’

    Here’s how it finishes…

    It seems like everyone studying wind power believes the additional costs incurred as a result of having to ramp up and down conventional power systems are relatively low – typically less than 0.5c/KWh for 20% penetration. Likewise, everyone agrees that there is a real cost to be paid. The cost for 50% penetration is unclear, even if it is feasible.

    There doesn’t seem to be any real world data for high wind penetrations, which is not surprising as Germany, a wind power leader, has only about 10% of (annual average) power coming from wind, and Denmark is effectively part of a much larger grid (by virtue of interconnection).

    Whether or not the current estimates factor in the lifetime impact on power stations (due to lots more heating and cooling causing more stressing of various parts of the system) is something that might only be found by the real world experiment of doing it for a couple of decades.

    [Note that many statements and press releases on the subject of wind do not clarify whether they are talking about “peak”, i.e., nameplate, or “average”, i.e. the nameplate x capacity factor – it is essential to clarify this before putting any weight on the claim].

  3. Curious George says:

    “The already uneconomic on land is only worse off in the waters.” The government has the power to make anything else even more uneconomic. And off-shore turbines have one huge advantage over land-based ones: no pesky birdwatcher will count dead birds under the mast.

  4. ren says:

    A strong geomagnetic storm break the polar vortex.

  5. E.M.Smith says:

    So what happens to these when the Cat 4 hurricane runs over them?

  6. hunter says:

    Hurricanes, a corrosive, aggressive environment, shipping collisions, logistics challenges, all for marginal power that is inherently unreliable and offers no economies of scale on size.