On May 1st, the Block Island Power Company officially silenced its diesel generating plant. It now draws cheap, clean power from the nation’s first offshore wind farm.
That project was assembled by a U.S. company, but it’s an outlier. America’s nascent offshore wind industry is already being dominated by European firms.
The Maryland Public Service Commission is currently taking bids for a wind farm off the coast of Ocean City, and Massachusetts will soon open its shores to offshore wind development. Three companies are expected to bid on these projects. Two are based in Denmark, while only one is located in the United States.
Europeans are making inroads elsewhere along the East Coast, as well. Norwegian firm Statoil recently won the rights to build a wind farm off the coast of New York City. Avangrid, the U.S. subsidiary of Spanish electric utility Iberdrola, won a bid to build wind turbines on more than 120,000 acres off the coast of North Carolina.
Why so many Europeans?
Europe has built offshore wind farms for decades. The continent is flush with companies with the technical know-how to install wind turbines at sea. In the United States, offshore wind is just starting to get a toehold. Few firms boast the expertise needed to build offshore wind.
That dynamic could change. The cost of offshore wind will likely fall as more projects emerge. Developers will build out the domestic supply lines needed to drive down costs. And this will help U.S. installers break in.
Private companies and public policymakers should be paying attention. Offshore wind could be a boon for U.S. manufacturers. But it won’t happen on its own. Americans are going to need to get in the game.