University of Delaware creates program to push offshore wind as a U.S. policy

Source: Elizabeth Harball, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, February 27, 2014

BOSTON — The University of Delaware yesterday announced a new initiative to educate policymakers and other stakeholders about the value of offshore wind, ultimately aiming to aid the commercial-scale deployment of the technology off America’s shores.Called the Special Initiative on Offshore Wind (SIOW), it will be housed by the University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Environment and headed by Stephanie McClellan, formerly policy director and offshore wind adviser for Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D).”It’s our goal to help accelerate the deployment to a scalable level necessary to address the grand challenge of global climate change and to grow our domestic clean energy economy,” said Charles Riordan, the University of Delaware’s vice provost for research, at yesterday’s announcement.

The program was introduced at the Offshore Wind Power USA conference in Boston and will provide data, analysis and other tools for states and regions wanting to develop offshore wind, McClellan said. It will pull together the expertise of both U.S. and international academics, nongovernmental organizations and members of the offshore wind industry, like Arcadia Wind, Deepwater Wind and Fishermen’s Energy, and will attempt to put lessons learned from Europe’s offshore wind development to use in American waters.

For its first year, McClellan said, the program has received an initial $250,000 in seed funding from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, a philanthropic organization.

Because offshore wind is still in the early stages in the United States, making the economic case for it can be a challenge, especially given its high upfront capital costs. At yesterday’s conference, proponents argued that the environmental and health benefits of offshore wind, in addition to its ability to provide a nonvolatile price for energy and cut the wholesale cost of electricity through price suppression, could be monetized to make the technology more palatable to policymakers.

But presenting these arguments in a simple, straightforward manner has not been easy for the industry.

“We’ve got to figure out how to tell policymakers that there’s great value to come from offshore wind,” said Doug Pfeister, head of the Washington, D.C.-based Offshore Wind Development Coalition, at the initiative’s announcement.

“As we try to quantify the benefits of offshore wind, we keep talking about environmental benefits and price suppression effects and [reducing] transmission congestion … we’ve got to put those things into dollars, and we’ve got to communicate it to policymakers — that’s a big part of what this initiative is going to be doing,” Pfeister added.