Backers of the U.S. offshore wind industry are hoping to build on recent momentum to crack the major financial and regulatory roadblocks that still remain before they can catch up with their thriving European counterparts. The image of a steel foundation being lowered into the ocean off the coast of Rhode Island this summer has become a sign of hope for the industry. Due next year, the small offshore wind farm developed by Deepwater Wind will generate 30 megawatts — peanuts compared with the more than 10 gigawatts already installed in Europe. The Block Island Wind Farm will be the first in the United States.
After what one market participant described as a “tortuously” slow start, there are now more than 15,500 MW of offshore wind projects in various stages of development in the U.S., and federal regulators have leased enough ocean acreage to support the construction of projects totaling more than 5,500 MW, the U.S. Department of Energy said Sept. 29.
Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. borrowed $275 million for a 300-megawatt wind farm in Texas that’s supplying power to Austin Energy, according to two people familiar with the deal. Mizuho Financial Group Inc. led the 10-year financing for the Jumbo Road wind farm, said the two people, who asked not to be identified because they’re not authorized to discuss the deal publicly. CoBank Financial Corp., Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp. also participated. Pricing started at 162.5 basis points over the London interbank offered rate.
Construction on MidAmerican Energy Company’s massive wind turbine farm in northwest Iowa is expected to finish by year’s end. MidAmerican Energy project manager Adam Jablonski told the Sioux City Journal that the Highland project will be one of the 10 largest wind farms in the country when it is completed.
Anxiety over a shutdown was delayed this week after the House and Senate passed a continuing resolution keeping agencies working through Dec. 11, sidestepping demands from conservatives to delay funding the government until Democrats and Obama agreed to block federal funds for Planned Parenthood. The Senate passed the legislation 78-20, and hours later, the House approved it 277-151, with opposition coming mainly from Republicans unimpressed with a symbolic vote in the House against Planned Parenthood.
The country has set a target to develop 5 gigawatts of offshore wind farms before 2016. So far, only 61 megawatts of wind turbines have been installed at sea along with 1.7 GW under construction, according to a statement published recently by the National Energy Administration. (A gigawatt equates roughly to the power output of one large U.S. nuclear power plant.)
A group of professors from the University of Delaware’s College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment (CEOE), the College of Engineering, and the Alfred Lerner School of Business and Economics — and who are all associated with the University of Delaware’s Center for Carbon Free Power Integration (CCPI) — reported their findings in an invited paper that was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The paper details the view of its authors that US offshore wind power is further away from commercial-scale deployment and operation than it was in 2005.
“We think there are valuable resources [in the lease areas], and we think there is industry interest in it,” she said. “The aligning of state policy and federal lease timetables is not a new challenge. I don’t think we have the perfect answer yet, but we’re showing leadership on federal side to move forward, and I’m hopeful we’ll encourage the state regulators to move forward on their side.”
The U.K. got more than a quarter of its electricity from renewables in the second quarter, a record. Wind, hydro and solar plants generated 25.3 percent of the country’s power in the three months through June, up from 22.6 percent in the first quarter of the year and 16.7 percent in the same period last year, the Department of Energy and Climate Change said in a statement on its website.
The United States installed a record of 845 wind turbines, totalling 1,661 MW, in the second quarter of 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association. The turbines were spread out across 12 separate projects in five different states, however it was the state of Texas that blew the competition away in the second quarter, installing a total of 1,226 MW. This brings Texas’ total installed capacity up over 15,000 MW, well surpassing California’s 6,000 MW.