The great news is that the first US offshore wind farm is now online. Five 6 MW wind turbines installed by Deepwater Wind have begun commercial operation off Block Island, RI. The turbines should generate enough electricity for 17,000 homes. It is an important first step toward developing clean and efficient wind energy off the shores of the United States. Compared to other industrialized regions, however, it is only a baby step. As of the middle of 2016, European offshore wind farms in the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Baltic had 3,334 grid connected wind turbines with a capacity of 11,538 MW. Projects totaling another 21.7 GW have already been approved.
While the US has been very slow to get started in offshore wind energy, the potential is huge. The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support a total of 14.6 gigawatts of capacity. The Department of Energy estimates that if a [potential] 86 GW of offshore wind … were installed by 2050, offshore wind would make up 14% of the projected demand for new electricity generation in the coastal and Great Lakes states. That is roughly enough electricity to power 31 million homes.
So, yes, Deepwater Wind’s 30 MW project is a great start, but we are a long way from where we need to be.