Wind Farms in the North Atlantic

August 26, 2022

Electric Power Generation v. Commercial Fishing

On August 26, 2022, Fox News (Jesse Watters Primetime) produced and broadcast over public airwaves an attack piece on offshore wind farms. It alleges that Democrats have conspired against the private commercial fishing industry to decimate historic fishing grounds; deprive them and nearby port communities of their legacy commercial activities; and potentially destroy entire regional economies.

Background:  

Wind is one of the cleanest energy sources available, and some scientists insist the U.S. is sitting next to a gold mine. A study published in 2009, “Global potential for wind-generated electricity” (PNAS: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America) firmly established wind power as the most effective and efficient means to generate sufficient electrical power to meet both present and future needs.[1]

A subsequent study conducted in 2017[2] found that wind speeds over the oceans could allow offshore turbines to generate far more energy than land-based wind farms – with the North Atlantic, in particular, theoretically able to provide enough energy for all of human civilization.

In tapping into wind as an energy source, the U.S. has lagged behind the U.K. and Europe for decades. Two of the largest offshore wind farms in the world are the London Array and the Netherlands’ Gemini wind farm.

The U.S. is beginning to catch up. The first offshore wind farm in the U.S. began generating electricity in late 2016. It consists of five, 6-MW (megawatt) Haliade-X turbines supplied by GE Renewable Energy linked through a submarine transmission cable into the New England grid.  Located about 3 miles off the coast of Block Island, RI, this wind farm will generate enough electricity to power 5,000 homes on the island and to meet around 90 percent of its total electricity demand. [3]

The Current Domestic Situation:  The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was created in 2011, and it is poised to review at least 16 offshore wind plans for potential approval in the next three years, up from two total approvals since the agency was created.

The Biden administration apparently has ambitious plans to open up vast swaths of coastline in order to generate 30 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030. Energy companies are stepping up: Six leases off the New Jersey and New York coasts sold for $4.3 Billion in February 2022, the most lucrative wind lease sale in U.S. history.

Among other cases, Oregon officials are asking BOEM to delay a planned lease sale next year over concerns about its potential impacts on commercial fishing.

The commercial fishing industry has real and legitimate concerns which need to be investigated and addressed, honestly and thoroughly.

Interim Conclusion:  This is a very complex issue which needs input from cool heads; full transparency; and no further publicly broadcast emotional diatribes.  Like most issues today, we need to allow real experts to develop and distribute a solid strategy which achieves optimum current and future outcomes for our society as a whole.


[1] This 2009 study was supported by National Science Foundation Grant ATM-0635548; the authors represent an international multidisciplinary team of scholars.

[2] “Geophysical potential for wind energy over the open oceans”; Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford, CA 94305.

[3] Block Island Wind Farm has a peak capacity of 30 MW (megawatts) and is expected to produce around 125,000 MWh (megawatt-hours) of electricity annually.



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