2011-08-17

Co.Exist

Forget Cape Wind: The First Offshore Wind Turbine In The U.S. May Be Off The Coast Of... Texas?

The Lone Star State may win the honor simply because it controls the ocean farther from the coast than most states, and the state has virtually no regulations when it comes to building.

Cape Wind--the first offshore wind farm in the U.S. to receive the go-ahead for construction--has been mired in Kennedy-centered political problems for a decade. The situation has become such a spectacle that there is now a feature-length documentary, Cape Spin, about the troubled wind farm. But while the Nantucket Sound's Cape Wind project may have kept offshore wind power in the headlines over the years, the country's first offshore turbine may end up being quietly installed off the coast of Texas.

Coastal Point Energy is on track to test an offshore turbine off the coast of Galveston by the end of this year. Over the next decade, Coastal Point anticipates spending $720 million on a 300 MW wind farm. Cape Wind, should it ever be built, will be a 468 MW project.

The Texas project still has at least one more regulatory hurdle to deal with, according to Offshore Wind Wire. But the whole regulatory process is much easier in Texas than in Massachusetts--or anywhere else in the country.

Unlike Cape Wind, which had to get regulatory approval from the Minerals Management Service, Coastal Point's project only needed to get approval from the Texas General Land Office. This is because the Texas Republic boundary extends 10.3 miles offshore (due to a stipulation from when the Texas republic joined the U.S.), while it extends just three miles offshore everywhere else in the U.S. So while the Cape Wind project went through 10 years of debates, the Galveston project was able to go from nomination to bid in four months, explains Popular Mechanics.

There are, of course, still issues to overcome. One problem: the cost of marine equipment, which becomes expensive as hurricane season approaches toward the end of the summer. And while the test turbine may be installed soon and Texas may be an anti-regulation paradise, it could still take two years for Coastal Point to get the permit it needs to begin working on a full-scale wind farm.

Farther north, Cape Wind has all the permits it needs, but construction plans have not yet been announced because of a lack of financing. The race is on.

Regardless of whether Coastal Point beats the Cape Wind project to the water, Texas may win out in the longer-term offshore wind race. The state's simpler regulatory process and experience with offshore projects (oil and gas), combined with a population that is used to seeing a so-called "working coast" means that companies in the future may flock to Texas for their offshore wind initiatives. After all, no one wants to see a repeat of Cape Wind.

[Image: Flickr user The Trucking Tourist]

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