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Funding an American offshore wind industry

Funding an American offshore wind industry

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The Department of Energy looks to smooth the way for offshore wind power with $43 million.

The U.S. doesn’t have an offshore wind farm yet, but the Energy Department has awarded $43 million in grants to get the industry up and spinning. Over the next five years, 41 projects are slated to receive the funds to advance offshore tech and tackle market impediments onshore.

On behalf of birds, sea turtles and marine mammals, the biggest check (of $4.5 million) would go to the Biodiversity Research Institute. BRI will compile existing data on wildlife populations in the mid-Atlantic and conduct baseline surveys of those species most threatened by offshore turbines. From there, risk assessment and preventative strategies will hopefully result.

Floating turbines received large chunks of the funding in order to design, assess, and develop control systems for the offshore platforms. A handful of projects will also study how turbines stand up to breaking waves, hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico, and ice floes on the Great Lakes.

Still, other forces exist to keep an American offshore wind industry at bay. And $16.5 million of the funds are slated to address them. Economic and infrastructure concerns include transmission planning, grid integration, wind farm locations, port requirements, manufacturing needs, and more risk assessment—not for birds this time, but investors.

Just yesterday, reports surfaced of General Electric backing out of a $100 million investment for a wind farm off Norway and a manufacturing facility in the United Kingdom. GE planned to populate the farm with direct-drive 4-megawatt turbines, but they say the market has told them to go bigger, possibly to its proposed 15-megawatt, gearless wind turbine discussed last week.

A GE spokeswoman tells Recharge:

We are by no means stepping out of offshore. With the 4.1MW we have an excellent product, but for the deeper water sites, which will be most common in the future, we really need a game-changing technology that can make a big impact on the market.

Perhaps some of those upcoming turbine floats could help bring them into the deep as well.

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Image: Principle Power

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Melissa Mahony

Contributing Editor

Contributing Editor Melissa Mahony has written for Scientific American Mind, Audubon Magazine, Plenty Magazine and LiveScience. Formerly, she was an editor at Wildlife Conservation magazine. She holds degrees from Boston College and New York University's Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting Program. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure