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Offshore Wind Power on the Road to Decarbonization

image credit: Image Used with Permission from Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Mike Ahern's picture
Director Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Mike Ahern leads WPI's Academic and Corporate Engagement Group.  Mike's focus areas include graduate education and professional development, especially in Electrical and Computer Engineering...

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  • Aug 27, 2021 2:54 pm GMT
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Here in the Northeastern U.S., there's a strong move to wind power generation as part of an overall decarbonization strategy.  The concept is that wind power can feed the grid and an ever growing number of electric vehicles.  This is one of the key strategies in Massachusetts' MA 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap Study ( available at:  www.mass.gov/2050Roadmap ). 

This concept will be challenging to implement!  Even with the full support of the Federal Government, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's permit process is time consuming.  The Biden Administration has a goal of 30 GigaWatts of offshore wind power generation by 2030.  For context, this is roughly equal to all of the existing offshore wind power generation  in the world and the U.S. currently has just 0.042 as of June, 2021.  I wrote a T&D World article about how challenging this goal is (available at: https://www.tdworld.com/renewables/article/21165067/is-30-gw-of-us-offshore-wind-by-2030-realistic ).  Even if this aggressive goal is not achieved on schedule, it's clear that offshore wind will be an important part of decarbonizing our future.

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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 27, 2021

Thanks for sharing, Mike. I often have mixed feelings about setting goals that are so ambitious that it's dubious they can be met-- on the one hand, we need aggressive goals to get us where we need to go, so even if we fall short then those goals likely motivated and incentivized further action that was needed. But on the other, if it becomes obvious the goals are unachievable, does that undercut any teeth or credibility the actions that follow them have? 

Christopher Neely's picture
Christopher Neely on Aug 29, 2021

I agree with this. These goals are often set without roadmaps, rather, they lean on a "let's commit and just figure it out," strategy. I'm not totally against this ambitious goal-setting because it lights a fire to start moving. However, I do disagree with ridiculous, plan-less goals when achievement of said goal is determined to be critical to a larger climate change strategy. Then it becomes an empty political promise rather than a solution. I think there has been a lot of promises made for political purposes over the last decade. I hope this next decade can be one of tangible plans and strategies—especially since 2030 is the first benchmark for many of these decarbonization goals. 

Mike Ahern's picture
Mike Ahern on Sep 8, 2021

Good points Matt and Christopher!

 

I think the two goals are both ambitious.  In terms of actual plans:

1)  I did not find a clear plan to achieve the goal of 30GW of U.S. Offshore Wind Power Generation by 2030. 

 

2)  The Massachusetts 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap is a detailed, well thought out plan (full disclosure: I served on their steering committee).  

 

That said, I think we'll see significant decarbonization at both federal and state levels.  

 

Best,

Mike

Michael Keller's picture
Michael Keller on Sep 6, 2021

From a strictly cost standpoint, better to bring in energy from the Canadian dams.
Then there is the matter of putting huge numbers of massive turbines in the middle of areas frequented by the endangered right whale. That brings us to the perplexing habit of green energy advocates of simply ignoring the severe impacts that occur with the massive number of installations required to solely meet our energy needs with green energy. Kind of the height of hypocrisy from those claiming to be environmentalists.

Mike Ahern's picture
Mike Ahern on Sep 8, 2021

Hello Michael,

 

Thank you for this perspective. 

 

I do think New England is on a track that will likely increase imports of renewable Canadian Power (both hydro and wind). 

 

While I'm certainly no expert on the whales, I believe these environmental impacts are part of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's permitting process.

 

Best,

Mike

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