There is some good news in the wind industry: The federal government has announced a large investment in offshore wind.
The federal government is stepping up its efforts to kick-start the offshore wind industry by awarding $28 million in grants to seven projects that are developing varying kinds of power-generation technology.
The Department of Energy said Wednesday that each developer would receive up to $4 million to complete the engineering, design and permitting phases of their projects in six states. Three of the seven will then be selected to receive up to $47 million over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations, for construction and installation, with the aim of having them begin commercial operation by 2017. So far, no offshore wind farm is operating in American waters.
The Department of Energy also has a surprisingly cool map of the grant recipients. (You may need to zoom out.)
DoE is clearly bullish on offshore wind energy. In its description of the opportunity, it notes:
Offshore wind resources are abundant, stronger, and blow more consistently than land-based wind resources. Data on the resource potential suggest more than 4,000,000 megawatts (MW) could be accessed in state and federal waters along the coasts of the United States and the Great Lakes, approximately four times the combined generating capacity of all U.S. electric power plants.
As the Sierra Club noted in a press release:
Wind energy in the US has seen incredible growth under the Obama administration. Wind power has doubled over the past four years employing more than 75,000 Americans, and the industry hit a historic milestone this summer when it reached 50 GW of installed wind capacity in the United States. Offshore wind could provide more than 4,000 GW of clean, domestic electricity and a U.S. offshore wind industry could support up to 200,000 jobs across the country by 2030.
We’d recommend against driving out to the shore to charge your phone just yet. Offshore wind still faces staunch opposition from fossil fuel advocates in particular. And the process of grant-making by the Department of Energy is of course what brought us the long-running and completely useless Solyndra investigation.
The investment, though, is a significant boost to offshore wind. And the wind industry can use all the good news it can get.