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What is stopping offshore wind development in United States?

The rapid growth of wind energy installations throughout the United States has been remarkable. In fact, in the last ten years U.S. has tripled its wind power capacity, and wind is together with hydropower the largest source of renewable energy in the country. The only downside of this US wind energy story is the fact that offshore wind energy sector is still pretty much in its infant phase of development.

So far, the only offshore wind farm in United States is a small commercial wind farm off the Rhode Island coast which is really not something United States can be proud of.

This is in stark contrast with wind projects developed on land. According to the Wind Energy Association there are more than 56,800 wind turbines on land, located in 41 states.

The majority of energy experts say that this is because construction costs of offshore wind energy farms are huge. There is also the need for supplying rare-earth metals needed to build these offshore wind turbines such as neodymium.

Almost all of the world's neodymium is mined in China. It has been reported that around 2,000 pounds of neodymium is needed to build magnet used for offshore wind turbine. The mining of neodymium in United States came to a halting point several years ago due to the environmental regulations and financial troubles meaning that the expensive import of this rare earth metal is currently the only solution for the further offshore wind energy development.

Many challenges lie ahead, and it is really too early to make any bold predictions about the future of offshore wind energy industry in United States. The U.S. is really at starting point and from there things could go in both directions, positive and negative. Only time will tell, but the positive example from wind projects on land will hopefully pave the way to a bright future of offshore wind energy in United States.


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