Josh Bauer / U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory

World - Comparing Offshore Wind Turbine Foundations

U.S. adoption of offshore wind technology has been slow compared to European counterparts.

Europe’s first offshore wind installation, Denmark’s Vindeby, came online in 1991 with a capacity of 4.9 MW. The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has estimated that the winds off U.S. coasts could generate four-times the electricity the country needs. Yet two decades after that first offshore project in Denmark, Europe had eight operational offshore wind farms while the United States had none.

As late as 2020, Rhode Island’s Block Island Wind Farm was still the United States’ only commercial operating offshore wind installation, which came online in 2016. A small pilot project has become active off the coast of Virginia. Roughly 30 other projects remain in various forms of development.

Several factors play into this difference between EU and U.S. markets. The permitting web reaching across U.S. government agencies, including the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Fish and Wildlife Service, is one factor. Projects must plan how to limit environmental impacts on surroundings and on local wildlife, as well as how to comply with acts like the Rivers and Harbors Act prohibiting obstruction or alteration of navigable waters without a permit.

Additionally, the Jones Act may limit turbine size or project timing due to a short supply of American vessels available to move components from port to project location. The Jones Act requires goods passing between U.S. ports to use ships built in, with ownership based in, and operated from the United States.

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Learn more: Technology writer Marla Keene works for AX Control, an industrial automation parts supplier located in North Carolina. She writes about AR/VR, drones, green tech, artificial intelligence and how technology is changing our world. Her articles have been featured in Power Magazine, Robotics Tomorrow and on other industry sites. Before working for AX Control, Marla spent 12 years running her own small business.