Yesterday was the final day at the American Wind Energy Association’s first North American Offshore Wind Conference & Exhibition in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Over the past couple of days, the conference provided many opportunities for meeting people from all parts of the offshore wind industry from around the world. Even though many of the people, companies and even states are in competition with each other to develop the biggest turbine, the longest blade, build the quickest ship or provide the best tax breaks for businesses, there was a surprising amount of collaboration and cooperation throughout the conference.
Nowhere is that collaboration more apparent than in governmental cooperation to build the offshore wind industry. A proverbial alphabet soup of agencies and departments that usually compete with each other for funding and personnel are working side-by-side to ensure speedy, safe and environmentally friendly use of America’s oceans. The DOE is providing funding for turbine development, market acceptance research and demonstration projects. The DOI is working with developers to identify areas offshore of particular interest. NOAA and DOD provide data and knowledge about the habitat and activities in the sea. CEQ provides the President’s leadership for the offshore wind industry. The newly formed NOC is aiding in coordinating these national efforts. Despite these shared efforts, more work needs to be done.
Many of the obstacles facing the offshore wind industry are shared not in a piecemeal, city-by-city or state-by-state fashion, but on a regional scale. The oceans do not stop at state jurisdictional lines, nor do the animals and habitats in them. Cultural and social concerns change all along the coasts – something that works in the Northeast is not guaranteed to be acceptable in the Southeast. Our oceans are likely to be better protected and developed with offshore wind farms quicker if entire regions that share mutual values and situations join together to help build the U.S. offshore wind industry.
This leaves plenty of work to be done before the second American Wind Energy Association North American Offshore Wind Conference and Exhibit next year in Baltimore, Maryland.