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The Answer to North America’s Energy Challenge is Blowing in the Offshore Wind

By 3p Contributor

A post by DONG Energy

The Danish company DONG Energy believes that the U.S. has the perfect conditions for exploiting the potential of offshore wind. The company, which built around a quarter of the world’s current offshore wind capacity, has acquired the rights to establish wind farms in two areas off the U.S. East Coast, and expects offshore wind energy to be cheaper than fossil energy within 10 years. ”It’s a matter of drawing on experiences from other parts of the world and thinking big,” says Thomas Brostrøm, head of DONG Energy’s U.S. operations.

Green conversion requires fresh thinking

The gradual conversion of U.S. energy from fossil fuels to more sustainable energy sources has been ongoing since the energy crisis in the 1970s. The primary focus has been on energy from onshore wind turbines. Since 2000, the amount of energy generated by onshore wind has risen twenty-fold, yet, despite many years of preparations, the U.S. is still awaiting its first offshore wind farm. DONG Energy, which already supplies offshore wind power to 18 million Europeans, will now help to change that.

So far, the U.S. has been able to use the large, relatively sparsely-populated areas of the Midwest to install onshore wind turbines. But implementing sustainable solutions to energy and environmental problems around the cities and densely populated areas of the East Coast and elsewhere in the country is a challenge – and that is where offshore wind comes into the picture.

”Offshore wind farms are an obvious local alternative to fossil power stations in metropolitan areas and the obvious way to ensure sustainable energy supplies for Americans in the future,” says Thomas Brostrøm.

Ideal conditions

The government-owned National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has identified a number of areas off the U.S. coastlines that are suitable for wind farms. NREL estimates that these areas can deliver upwards of 4,000 gigawatts – roughly four times the total energy requirement of the U.S. The estimate is theoretical, but it gives an idea of the potential of offshore wind.

Some of the most suitable areas are off the eastern seaboard, where DONG Energy has provisionally acquired the rights to build two offshore wind farms. The seabed there is similar to that of Europe, where offshore wind is the fastest growing energy technology. DONG Energy now generates more than a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind power, and will be able to draw on this experience when developing the new wind farms in the United States.

The plan is that one of the offshore wind farms will be sited 90 kilometers (about 56 miles) off the coast of Massachusetts. From here, it will provide sustainable energy for citizens in and around Boston, while the other wind farm will be sited around 15 miles off the coast of New Jersey. The first farm alone will be able to cover the power consumption of nearly half a million U.S. homes. This is only possible because offshore wind is stronger and more reliable than onshore wind, consequently generating a greater output.

Green energy needs to be cheaper than black

Thomas Brostrøm points to the strong technological developments within offshore wind in recent years, which have brought about a significant reduction in costs.

”For one thing, the blade span of the wind turbines has more than doubled in about 15 years. Wind farms are getting bigger and can be located further out at sea, where they are out of sight and can take advantage of the higher wind speeds. At the same time, we’re continually getting better at standardizing and optimizing installation and maintenance of wind turbines. All this is helping to drive down costs, which ultimately means more green energy for our homes,” Brostrøm concludes.


Image credits: DONG Energy

DONG Energy is one of the leading energy groups in Northern Europe, headquartered in Denmark. It employs 6,700 people in developing, constructing and operating offshore wind farms; generating power and heat from power stations; providing energy to residential and business customers on a daily basis; and producing oil and gas.

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