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UD study projects a major drop in wind farm costs in the next decade

Delaware Public Media

A new study released by University of Delaware this week says that the cost of building offshore wind energy projects off the East Coast could drop substantially over the next 10 years.

The greatest barrier to building offshore wind farms is the high price tag that often comes with proposals. The capital costs reflect the fact that it’s not easy to build large turbines in the deep ocean environment. And Stephanie McClellan at University of Delaware reminds us that it’s still a new technology.

“We’ve been building coal plants for a 100-plus years. We’ve been building offshore wind farms -- in Europe -- for about 15 years," said McClellan. "So because it’s on the beginning end of its learning curve, it’s still more expensive.”

But as more experience is gained with offshore wind, those costs could come tumbling down by over 50 percent in the next decade. That’s according to a new study from UD’s Special Initiative on Offshore Wind, which McClellan directs.

This estimate is based on the plan to develop a series of offshore wind projects along the Massachusetts coast. Slated to finish construction between 2020 and 2030 -- these turbines would altogether generate 2,000 Mega-Watts.

McClellan says that the market will respond to the development of wind farms at this scale. And the costs will also drop as technologies continue to advance and a workforce becomes skilled in building and maintaining these operations.


“In that process, the cost of installing and constructing offshore wind farms, the cost of operating and maintaining them -- all of those fall as the workforce becomes more experienced," said McClellan.

And she adds that if things go as expected, that could open up opportunities in the Mid-Atlantic. Delaware could collaborate with neighboring Maryland and New Jersey to replicate the projected success in New England.

Currently, development is underway for the first U.S. offshore wind farm, the Block Island project off the coast of Rhode Island.

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