In 2015, a levelized study, removing all tax credits and financial incentives showed that onshore wind was the cheapest form of power in America. The study showed that onshore wind could generate electricity for 5.2 ¢ per kWh. The average price for residential electricity in the U.S. in December 2018 12.5 ¢ per kWh.
After onshore wind, the next cheapest fuel sources were solar, hydropower and natural gas, which all cost less than 6 ¢ per kWh. The most expensive fuel sources were oil, nuclear and coal. The cost to mine and transport coal is more than double the cost of natural gas to generate electricity. Economics are the primary reason utilities across the U.S. have been moving from coal to renewable energy and natural gas.
Winds offshore are stronger and more consistent than winds onshore. Countries in Western Europe have been aggressively developing offshore wind farms for over a decade. In 2018, the United Kingdom and Germany installed 2,000 MW and 1,000 MW, respectively of new offshore wind farms in the North Sea.
The first and only offshore wind farm in the U.S. commenced operation off the coast of Rhode Island in December 2016. America’s slow move to adopt offshore wind energy has been cost. Although offshore winds are substantially stronger and more consistent, installing a platform for each offshore turbine drives up the total cost to generate electricity. However, developing technology is rapidly driving down the cost for power from offshore wind farms.
Cornwall Insight estimates that the cost of electricity from offshore wind is likely to be cheaper than onshore wind within the next ten years. The company anticipates that new technology, such as more powerful and higher turbines, longer turbine blades and floating wind turbines will dramatically drive down the cost of power from offshore wind. Cornwall Insight provides energy analysis and is headquartered in Norwich England.
Over the past few years, eastern seaboard states have begun the development of offshore wind farms to replace expensive coal-fired plants and aging nuclear power plants. Current innovations in offshore wind turbines will almost certainly accelerate America’s use of wind energy from sea to shining sea.
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