But despite a decade of efforts, not a single offshore turbine has been built in the United States. Experts say progress has been slowed by a variety of factors, including poor economics, an uncertain regulatory framework and local opposition.

More than 800 giant wind turbines spin off the coasts of Denmark, Britain and seven other European countries, generating enough electricity from strong ocean breezes to power hundreds of thousands of homes. China’s first offshore wind farm, a 102-megawatt venture near Shanghai, goes online this month, with more in the pipeline.

But despite a decade of efforts, not a single offshore turbine has been built in the United States.

Experts say progress has been slowed by a variety of factors, including poor economics, an uncertain regulatory framework and local opposition.

Wind_TurbinesWhen the Obama administration announces a decision this week on the most prominent project — Cape Wind, off the coast of Massachusetts — it could have implications from Long Island to Lake Erie. An approval from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar might well nudge the project to completion as the nation’s first offshore wind farm. On the other hand, some developers say a thumbs-down could gut America’s offshore wind industry before it ever really gets started.

“It is imperative that Cape Wind gets built — we need the momentum,” said Peter Giller, chief executive of OffshoreMW, an upstart developer with ambitions to build two 700-megawatt projects off the shores of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

At least half a dozen offshore wind projects that could provide electricity for hundreds of thousands of customers have already been proposed in the shallow waters off the East Coast and the Great Lakes. Even more are in the paper-napkin stage, including a project that would place a bank of turbines about 13 miles off the Rockaway peninsula in New York.

Although offshore wind farms are roughly twice as expensive as land-based ones, developers and advocates say offshore projects have several advantages. Sea and lake breezes are typically stronger, steadier and more reliable than wind on land. Offshore turbines can also be located close to the power-hungry populations along the coasts, eliminating the need for new overland transmission lines. And if the turbines are built far enough from shore, they do not significantly alter the view — a major objection from many local opponents.

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Source: The New York Times