Each structure is enormous — almost half the height of the Empire State Building. Most all of them are constructed in Europe, at least for now. As states in the U.S. Northeast jump into wind power, they’re betting they can create their own windmill industry. It’ll be a costly but perhaps necessary move, especially as President Donald Trump pushes for more factory jobs and picks fights with those making parts abroad.
“There’s no way of hiding that every single state, be it here in the U.S. or be it countries in Europe, are insisting on everything sort of being local,” said Henrik Poulsen, CEO of Orsted A/S, the Danish company that is the world’s largest offshore-wind developer. “It is an equation that’s very difficult to solve without the whole technology becoming much more expensive.”
Initially, the cost of offshore wind farms will be 45-percent more than those built in Europe, partly because much of the equipment will have to be imported, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. The viability of any new projects will require long-term supply agreements that guarantee developers can sell their power at above-market rates, BNEF said.
Windmills aren’t new for Americans, who get more electricity from the structures than any country except China, which is investing heavily. But almost all the capacity is on land and use smaller turbines than those at sea. Building 15 miles or more offshore is appealing because breezes are stronger and more uniform, and there are no neighbors to oppose structures with rotors that at their highest are almost 600 feet above the surface of the ocean.
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