Onshore NIMBYism Ensures Offshore Wind

Source: By Jeff McMahon, Forbes • Posted: Friday, May 11, 2018

Both New Hampshire and now Maine have opposed transmission lines in their back yards that would bring Canadian hydroelectric power to Massachusetts, so New Englanders may have to look offshore.

And that could be a primary motivation for offshore wind development in the United States.

“You’re left with no recourse,” said Dan Shreve, a wind-energy expert and partner with MAKE Consulting. “Now we’re looking at offshore-plus-storage as being the viable option to meet the RPS obligations that have been put forth by the state.”

That’s why offshore wind will develop in the American Northeast, Shreve contends, despite being substantially more expensive than competing technologies.

Max Cohen, an IHS Markit analyst, also sees the potential growth, though he identifies a different reason the growth with overcome the expense. The analysts outlined their expectations Monday at the American Wind Energy Association’s Windpower 2018 conference in Chicago.

“$150 per megawatt hour is probably just the bare floor minimum we’re talking about” for offshore wind, Cohen said (The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates the cost of onshore wind at about $40) “It’s probably going to be more expensive for the first few projects. But there are a couple of benefits to offshore wind.”

Among those benefits, according to Cohen:

  • Offshore wind will be relatively close the energy-hungry cities on the Eastern Seaboard. Although the transmission lines are under water, they’re not as distant or difficult to site as some onshore projects.
  • Offshore winds tend to peak at the same time demand peaks in the winter
  • Wind-industry momentum in Europe is driving down costs
  • Politics: “More importantly it’s a political decision,” Cohen said. “It brings in-state development and activity to ports while also providing a big slug of renewable energy that’s out of sight.”

Nonetheless, Shreve and Cohen don’t see a lot of offshore wind coming online. Shreve projects 10 gigawatts by 2040—”so it’s kind of small in the scheme of things”—Cohen projects five gigawatts by 2028. Compare that to 100 GW of coal Cohen expects to retire in the same time period.