U.S. government forges ahead on offshore wind

A wind farm under construction off the southeast side of Block Island R.I., in July. A few miles off the coast,it will be the nation’s first commercial-scale offshore wind farm. (Gregg Vigliotti/The New York Times)

With the first U.S. commercial offshore wind farm scheduled to begin operation off the coast of Rhode Island before the end of the year, the federal government continues to open more of the Atlantic coastline up to wind energy developers.

Federal offshore leasing is expected to reach more than 1.2 million acres next year, up from less than 400,000 acres in 2013, according to a report Friday from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Earlier this month the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management held a lease sale for 80,000 acres waters off New York and plans another lease sale off the coast of North Carolina next year.

But the high costs of installing and maintaining wind turbines offshore continues to limit development. The Rhode Island wind farm will deliver electricity to  Block Island, which is currently powered by expensive to run diesel generators.

So far offshore wind has only generated approximately $16 billion in revenue for the federal government. By way of comparison, offshore oil and gas production and other forms of energy have generated the government more than $24 billion over the same period.