So far, offshore wind developments have mainly been built on the east coast. That’s because the sea in this region is shallower, making it easier for developers to build offshore turbines. The Block Island wind farm off the coast of Rhode Island was the first offshore wind facility in the U.S. to go online in 2016.
Earlier this year, the first commercial-scale wind farm was approved for construction off the coast of Massachusetts. The Vineyard Wind project will generate 800 megawatts of power, which is enough to power 400,000 homes. It is scheduled to come online in 2023.
However, the west coast’s offshore wind industry could quickly catch up. Floating turbines will become more commercially viable over the next decade due to dropping production costs.
According to a National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, the cost to produce wind power off the California coast using floating turbines will drop from a range of $95-$114 per megawatt-hour to $53-$64 per megawatt-hour by 2032. This would make floating turbines equal in terms of cost with fixed-bottom turbines.
Although the projected cost for floating turbines looks promising, some groups worry about their environmental impact. The Environmental Defense Center wants more information about the damage the turbines could cause to the marine environment and wildlife. The Center pointed to one estimate suggesting that producing 10,000GW of offshore wind would require 1,200 square miles of ocean. “It is a new technology and a new industry in California,” comments Kristen Hislop of the Environmental Defense Center. “So we need to be careful.”