Air Supply Air Supply
Issue 014

Air Supply

by Brentin Mock

December 25, 2008

If you believe the future of energy is offshore drilling, think again.

It took us more than 20 years to accumulate our first 10,000 megawatts of wind power; it took just two to produce the next 10,000. Now, five U.S. offshore wind farms are racing for first place in the effort to put turbines in the oceans. State licenses and contracts have been awarded, but with federal ocean permits still hanging in the mix, it's yet to be seen whether these projects will sink or swim.

Rhode Island

Despite its size, the Ocean State has some of the highest electricity rates in the nation. In response, Governor Donald Carcieri declared that Rhode Island would soon generate 15 percent of its energy from the wind; the state awarded its first offshore wind contract to Deepwater Wind in September. Deepwater pledges that it will bring in 1.3 megawatts per hour and create hundreds of local jobs.Major Hurdle: Some locals don't like the idea of having their ocean views marred by turbines, even though many of them live on Block Island, which sees rates as high as 40 cents per kilowatt hour.


A couple of weeks before Rhode Island hired Deepwater, Delaware licensed Bluewater Wind to create its first offshore wind farm. Bluewater has plans to generate a 450-megawatt generator 12 miles off the coast, and it already has the state's largest utility lined up as a customer. The turbines' 150-foot blades will spin from hurricane-resistant poles rising 250 feet from the water.Major Hurdle: Melting ice caps and rising sea levels present the biggest threat. Pending federal permits, Bluewater aims to start running energy by 2012.

New Jersey

In early October, New Jersey contracted Garden State Offshore Energy to work with PSEG Renewable Generation on the state's first offshore farm. The state expects to have 20 percent of its energy come from renewables by 2020. With 96 turbines planted off the coast, GSOE plans to supply up to 110,000 homes with power.Major Hurdle: New Jersey has almost 3.5 million housing units, and wind would be powering just 3 percent of them.


The Beaver State doesn't just want to be first; it also wants to be best, pursuing multiple projects-both water and land based-at once. Principle Power is raising $20 million to build a 150-megawatt facility, while other proposals, such as "wave parks" (where specialized buoys draw energy from ocean waves), are also a go.Major Hurdle: The state hasn't totally committed itself to the projects (though it's believed it will). Still, it will have to grapple with the fact that the Pacific's deep waters make them less than ideal for turbines.


As anyone with a television knows, T. Boone Pickens has hisĀ  sights (backed by his billions) set on wind energy. Texas-already home to the country's largest wind farm-plans to set up 667 offshore turbines for what is just the first of four phases, which will generate 4,000 megawatts.Major Hurdle: Pickens helped get the world into this energy crisis to begin with. Accountability when it comes to sustainable-wage jobs, wildlife protection, and shared profits will be key.Photo by Flickr user George Lu
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Air Supply