Offshore wind has the potential to power America

Climate Central: Offshore wind power, a source of renewable energy that Europeans have been investing in for decades, has not yet materialized in the U.S. as debates have swirled about the viability of wind farms off the country’s coastlines.

That, however, may be about to change.

The Block Island Wind Farm is set to break ground in July off the coast of Rhode Island, and with it, the future of offshore wind in the U.S. seems very real. If completed, it will be the first offshore wind farm in the U.S., and if it is successful, it could prove that wind power generated by turbines off the coast is a viable enterprise similar to onshore wind farms, which generate about 4 percent of America’s electricity.

That could set the stage for other offshore wind projects all along the East Coast as the federal government expands the waters available for new offshore wind farm development. President Obama’s Climate Action Plan calls for offshore wind to be part of the administration’s goal to generate 20,000 megawatts of renewable power on federally controlled public lands and waters by 2020, a major part of America’s efforts to tackle climate change with low-carbon energy.

The offshore wind power potential in the U.S. is huge, totalling more than 4,000 gigawatts if fully developed — about four times today’s total U.S. electric power generating capacity and enough electricity to power about 800 million homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That’s something that could benefit the many dense cities lining the East Coast, not far from where new wind farms could be built.

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