Why has offshore wind technology been so slow to catch on in the United States?

Madeleine Thomas writes: The first offshore wind farm in the country, a $300 million project more than seven years in the making, will open this fall off the coast of Rhode Island.

Deepwater Wind, an offshore wind developer, is spearheading the five-turbine farm near Block Island, less than 20 miles south off the mainland. The facility will power most of the island, cut local electric rates by 40 percent, and reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 40,000 tons a year. The wind farm — — the first of its kind in United States waters — — could power as many as 17,000 homes.

“I look at Block Island as sort of the key to unlocking the code of how to do offshore wind in the U.S.,” Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski told the Associated Press.

There may be merit to Grybowski’s claim, but, overall, offshore wind in the U.S. is slow-going. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has already approved 11 commercial wind leases throughout the Atlantic, but as the Associated Press reports, projects off the coasts of Cape Cod (which actually would have been the first in the country, if successful) and Long Island both stalled due to legal hurdles or delayed state votes. In Europe, offshore wind is a thriving industry, with more than 3,000 wind turbines installed across 11 countries. [Continue reading…]

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