Deep Offshore Wind Sized Up

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"Deep offshore wind could produce energy for $0.08–$0.10/KW within 10 years."

Deep offshore wind could produce energy for $0.08–$0.10 per kilowatt within 10 years, according to a report released today from the University of Maine and DeepCWind.org. The extensive report was funded with a $1 million grant from the DOE.

More interesting than how inexpensive offshore wind might become is the legal challenge such an undertaking could face.

In addition to a feasibility study for the Maine's coastal region in particular, the report delves into what the U.S. government and private companies may or may not be able to build in terms of deep offshore wind sites with an interconnection to a common grid, or with a series of independent grids.

Things become complicated depending on whether the offshore pilings and turbines were foreign made and how they're connected, though this could actually be a boon to U.S. manufacturers.

Three types of deep offshore wind designs are under development at the UOM Deepwater Offshore Wind Test Site.

Deep offshore wind

The report asserts that deep offshore wind farms attached to the seabed could legally be treated as U.S. "ports," while turbines built as floating entities could be treated as "vessels," both of which are subject to Jones Act (aka the Merchant Marine Act of 1920) and other maritime regulations and cabotage laws. The report states one cabotage law dictates that "75% of the crew on U.S.-flagged vessels be U.S. citizens and/or permanent residents."

Under certain circumstances, the Defense Secretary can waive cabotage laws. Companies can petition for waivers—and have succeeded in some historical situations—but the process is controversial, costly and time-consuming.

The report also found that deep offshore wind sites would involve the jurisdiction of more than 12 U.S. agencies—from the EPA to the Border Patrol division of Homeland Security.

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