Environmental Protection

Oceana: Modest Investment in Offshore Wind Could Easily Power Half of the East Coast States

As the high costs of heavy U.S. reliance on fossil fuels become clear, Oceana urges policymakers to invest more in the development of cheaper renewable energy choices.  An Oceana analysis shows that offshore wind potential is so high off the U.S. Atlantic coast that investments in offshore wind power in Atlantic waters could generate about 30 percent more electricity than economically recoverable offshore oil and gas in the same region combined.  In fact, Oceana found that a modest investment in offshore wind could easily supply nearly half of the current electricity generation of East Coast states.

Oceana’s new analysis, “Untapped Wealth:  The Potential of Offshore Energy to Deliver Clean, Affordable Energy and Jobs,” estimated wind power potential using very conservative methods, to show that offshore wind on the Atlantic coast could provide much greater energy potential than offshore oil and gas combined.  This energy could be used to heat homes and businesses, generate power or power electric vehicles.

“Our research revealed that harnessing offshore wind power in Atlantic waters is a much more cost-effective way to generate energy than oil and gas drilling,” said Jacqueline Savitz, Oceana senior campaign director and analysis co-author.  “If we can get more energy for less money, create more jobs and protect our environment from spills, why not choose offshore wind over oil and gas?  We need a sensible energy policy and this research shows the way,” Savitz added.

Oceana’s research also reveals that offshore wind developments off the U.S. Atlantic coastline could create between 133,000 and 212,000 jobs annually in the United States, more than three times the jobs estimate from proposed future expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling.

"I am a firm believer in the promise of offshore wind power,” said Senator Thomas Carper (D-DE).  “The Oceana report confirms what I have been saying for a long time: the development of offshore wind means reliable energy, good paying American jobs and independence from fuels that pollute our air and drain our economy. I will continue to support offshore wind energy through my work in the Senate, for both the state of Delaware and the rest of the nation,” Carper added.

Oceana’s report reveals the potential benefits of offshore wind in Atlantic waters:

    * Delaware, Massachusetts and North Carolina could generate enough electricity from offshore wind to equal current electricity generation, entirely eliminating the need for fossil fuel- based electric generation.

     * New Jersey, Virginia and South Carolina could supply 92 percent, 83 percent and 64 percent of their current electricity generation with offshore wind, respectively. In all these states, wind could provide more energy than the states currently get from fossil fuels.

    * The wind-rich Atlantic states could easily supply nearly half the current electricity generation of the U.S. East Coast.

    * Atlantic offshore wind energy could be produced for less money than corresponding oil and gas and will create more jobs.

U.S. offshore wind generation capacity on the Atlantic coast is at least 127 gigawatts, an amount roughly equal to European projections for offshore wind-generated energy by 2030 on that continent.

American companies General Electric and Clipper Windpower are already manufacturing offshore wind turbines and turbine components for customers in the United Kingdom and Europe. Americans could benefit greatly from an expansion of the wind power market, including domestic manufacturing of offshore wind components.

 Economic & Efficiency Benefits

 While wind energy, oil and gas are not currently used for the exact same purposes, comparing their capacity to heat homes, generate electricity and power electric vehicles is helpful in demonstrating the potential future benefits of wind, which can only be realized if we prioritize its development now.

Wind Power Benefits Easily Trump Fossil Fuel Benefits

For example, in the South Atlantic, offshore wind could heat more homes than offshore oil and natural gas resources combined, for less than half the price.

In the U.S. mid-Atlantic region, offshore wind could generate more electricity than currently generated by fossil fuels, produce three times as much power, heat seven times as many homes or fuel four times more electric cars as the region’s estimated offshore oil and gas resources combined.

In the North Atlantic region, offshore wind could generate as much electricity as currently generated by oil and natural gas or as generated by coal. The electricity generated by offshore wind could heat nearly four times as many homes as the region’s estimated offshore oil and gas resources combined.

 Additional comparisons are provided in Oceana’s report.

Investments in offshore wind energy could help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, while protecting our health and slowing climate change.  However, choosing to invest resources in “all of the above” energy choices will result in competition between offshore wind and fossil fuels for parts, maritime expertise, installation vessels and more.  Reaping the full benefits of offshore wind will require prioritizing development of wind farms over oil and gas wells.

As the Obama administration deliberates about whether to open the Atlantic coast to offshore oil and gas drilling, Oceana’s analysis shows clearly that an investment in clean energy would yield stronger economic returns than offshore oil and gas development.

Recommendations

Oceana recommends that the U.S. begin to transition away from offshore fossil fuel development now, by taking the following positive steps:

    * Eliminate federal subsidies for fossil fuels and re-direct those federal funds to renewable energy development and energy efficiency programs

    * Stop all new offshore drilling for oil and gas, to prevent future spills and reduce competition for resources and professional expertise.  Such competition will slow the development of offshore wind power.

    * Ban new oil and gas development in previously protected areas in the Atlantic Ocean, where renewable energy is more cost effective.

    * Stop any new oil and gas development in the Arctic Ocean, until and unless independent science demonstrates that it will not impact marine ecosystems and demonstrates that sufficient spill response capabilities exist in those areas.

    * Prioritize the leasing of installation ships for wind turbine installation.

    * Increase and make permanent the production and investment tax credit for wind energy, outlined in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Tax Act of 2009.

    * Increase and make permanent the Innovative Technology Loan Guarantee Program for opening, expanding or modernizing facilities to manufacture offshore wind turbine components, and extend this program to turbine installation vessel manufacturing.

    * Increase long-term demand for and supply of renewable energy, through a robust Renewable Electricity Standard and Loan Guarantee programs for renewable energy projects, technology manufacturing and training.

    * Accelerate the electrification of the U.S. fleet through incentives to automobile manufacturers and purchasers, while building charging stations and other necessary infrastructure to increase use of electric vehicles.

“Investment in wind power off America’s Atlantic coast would create hundreds of thousands of good jobs and help wean us off oil, while reducing energy costs for consumers. Oceana urges policymakers and private investors to make offshore wind development a priority,” said Jacqueline Savitz.

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