January 2011 Issue
A New Energy Future for America Begins on Cape Cod's Shores
By Mark Rodgers
Cape Wind Associates
Mariners accustomed to seeing offshore wind turbines in the North Sea and Baltic Sea may have wondered if they would ever see them in U.S. waters. Only in 2010 did an answer finally emerge, and the answer was yes.
Last October, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar issued the nation's first offshore wind power lease to Cape Wind Associates (Boston, Massachusetts) to install 130 wind turbines off the coast of Massachusetts on Horseshoe Shoal in Nantucket Sound. Cape Wind will supply most of the electricity used on Cape Cod and on the islands of Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket during average wind conditions. Cape Wind selected Siemens Wind Power A/S's (Brande, Denmark) 3.6-megawatt offshore wind turbines, which have become an industry workhorse in European waters.
According to Cape Wind's on-site meteorological tower, the offshore wind resource is strong precisely during times that electricity demand is at its peak. Local sailors can vouch for these strong summer afternoon 'sea breezes.'
A visual simulation of how Cape Wind will appear from a passing boat at a distance of one mile. (Image courtesy of Cape Wind Associates)
More Than Cape Wind
Just miles from the most concentrated band of population density and corresponding electric demand in the United States—starting from the coast of Massachusetts and continuing down to the coast of Virginia—is a strong but untapped offshore wind resource. While Massachusetts will see America's first offshore wind farm, many other states are scrambling to follow. Currently there are offshore wind farms proposed offshore several East Coast states and in the Great Lakes.
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) estimates that over the next 20 years, the U.S. can build 100 Cape Wind-sized offshore wind projects, helping the country attain a goal of meeting 20 percent of its electricity needs from wind power (offshore and onshore) by 2030.
According to the DOE, such a build out of offshore wind power would create more than 40,000 American jobs.
The construction and operations of Cape Wind will create the first thousand of these jobs. Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick has announced the creation of a new Marine Commerce Terminal in the port of New Bedford, Massachusetts.
This will be the first site in North America specifically designed for the staging and assembly of offshore wind turbines, and Cape Wind will be its first customer. Just as has been seen in Europe, the offshore wind industry can provide an economic development boost to help revitalize commercial ports.
Cape Wind has also signed a letter of intent with Mass Tank, a Massachusetts-based steel company that is partnering with EEW Germany (Erndtebrück, Germany) to open a facility to manufacture Cape Wind's monopile foundations and transition pieces. This facility will be located in a Massachusetts port and will be well-situated to meet the growing offshore wind supply-chain needs in the U.S. and to export to the European offshore wind market.
In the years to come, the U.S. will have to build out the supply chain for offshore clean energy, which will include the building of special-purpose installation vessels. The U.S.-based offshore oil and gas support industries have taken notice of this promising new growth sector, and Cape Wind has been strongly supported by the National Ocean Industries Association for this very reason.
Clearing the Way for Future Projects
While the review process for Cape Wind dragged on for too long, it gave rise to a regulatory framework that should allow the next offshore wind projects to be reviewed more swiftly. Recently, the secretary of the interior made this point when he said, 'The Cape Wind lease is an historic milestone in America's renewable energy future. But to fully harness the economic and energy benefits of our nation's vast Atlantic wind potential, we need to implement a smart permitting process that is efficient, thorough and unburdened by needless red tape.'
It is fitting that the first wind turbines that boaters will see in American waters will be offshore Cape Cod. It was along this same shoreline where boaters of a bygone age saw hundreds of salt mills lining the coast of Nan'tucket Sound harness abundant wind power to produce salt for America.
Yet this beautiful, sandy and low-lying coastline is now vulnerable to worsening erosion, rising sea levels and more frequent strong storms caused by climate change. In this way, too, it is fitting to have America's first offshore wind farm here, signaling a new direction toward a cleaner and more sustainable energy future to be seen by visitors from across the world.
Come visit this beautiful area again after Cape Wind is installed, take the eco-tour of the project and experience the many great local restaurants, hotels and beaches. If you find yourself walking a local beach on a clear day after Cape Wind is built, you will be able to glimpse an important source of the global energy supply going forward: clean offshore energy that will create jobs, increase energy independence and contribute to a more hopeful future.