Here it is, folks. We are standing at the crossroads of a remarkable energy transition in the United States. Renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are dropping in cost seemingly every day. The monumental agreement at COP21 in Paris last December and the falling price of oil and coal give me reason to go beyond hoping to believing that scholars will cite 2016 as the year that launched the green economy.
Why am I so optimistic? I’ll tell you. Later this year, Deepwater Wind will bring the U.S.’s first offshore wind facility online and begin delivering clean, renewable energy to Rhode Island. I’ll be frank and add that the 30-mega-watt project will provide a fraction of the energy demand of this small state.
But — and here’s the exciting part —the wind farm is being built, constructed and providing labor in the U.S.; it will power all of Block Island; and Deepwater Wind has two more projects in the works. Offshore wind projects in Europe are already generating over 60,000 domestic jobs. Don’t you think it’s time the U.S. got serious about the green economy?
Scattering myths to the wind
There are still several myths surrounding utility-scale wind energy. The first is that wind turbines pose a serious threat to birds and other wildlife. With a few exceptions, time has taught wind developers that offshore wind farms can be sited responsibly to dramatically reduce the risk to birds and marine mammals. In fact, one study found there was the potential to create marine habitat.
Offshore wind can result in locally high mortality to birds if sited incorrectly; however, organizations like the National Wildlife Federation are working with offshore wind developers to mitigate this hazard through responsible siting, establish monitoring programs and other strategies. Climate change poses a much more serious threat to birds globally and if not curtailed through the use of renewables, such as wind energy, could have much more severe consequences for 30 percent of bird species globally.
“We have been advocating for responsible wind development projects like Deepwater Wind elsewhere in the Northeast,” said Catherine Bowes, senior manager at the National Wildlife Federation. “They are doing some really interesting stuff.”
Another common wind energy myth alleges that electricity output from wind farms is too low to make wind energy cost-competitive. This is entirely untrue. A report by ISO New England found that Massachusetts alone has the potential to generate upwards of 8,000 MW of electricity from offshore wind; enough to power all 5.8 million homes in New England.
When one considers the enormous potential to generate power off the coast of New England, it becomes harder to listen to critics denouncing wind energy because it’s allegedly “economically infeasible.” This is especially true when one considers that wind energy is already priced as low as 2.5-3.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is comparable to other wholesale electric power.