Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: Smart From the Start: Atlantic Wind Energy Development in the United States and the Early Impacts of Policy Implementation
Authors: Coffey, Cecelia
Advisors: Popper, Frank
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2015
Abstract: The United States is at a crossroads that will determine its energy future. Diversifying sources of domestic energy will be critical to enhancing energy security in terms of independence from foreign fuels. Offshore wind farms have been successful in contributing to the energy mix of European countries, but the U.S. has yet to install wind turbines on any of its federal or state waters. Both researchers and practitioners have identified major barriers to offshore wind development that must be overcome in order to promote domestic wind energy. These obstacles can be grouped into four major categories: technological limitations, logistical challenges, economic uncertainties and political resistance. This thesis will examine each in greater depth. The Department of the Interior (DOI) piloted an initiative called Smart From the Start (SFTS) in 2010, which is still in effect today. SFTS seeks to mitigate many of the challenges facing investors and developers who would otherwise be interested in supporting offshore wind. SFTS particularly serves the purpose of facilitating the early processes required to install a wind energy project on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) of the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic OCS is a favorable location for the siting and development of offshore wind areas. Through a three-part program, SFTS assists in the identification and evaluation of these Wind Energy Areas (WEAs). First, SFTS designated the DOI as responsible for pre-siting WEAs that are the most suitable for development. Factors being considered included weather and wind patterns, shipping lanes, and the migratory patterns of wildlife. Second, the policy announced that the DOI would work in concert with the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to conduct preliminary environmental reviews and to otherwise facilitate the permitting of WEAs for lease by developers. Third and finally, SFTS calls for increased attention on the need for transmission infrastructure, without which the functionality of offshore wind farms will be severely impaired. In determining the efficacy of the SFTS policy over the first five years following its implementation, these three objectives must be considered in light of the structural and contextual variables that critically affect their feasibility. By leveraging a framework developed by policy researchers Daniel Mazmanian and Paul Sabatier, this thesis evaluates the major relevant factors. While experts have concluded that both generation and transmission infrastructure is sufficiently technologically advanced to be used in offshore wind energy installation, additional barriers to development still exist. Chief among these factors are the logistical difficulties of working offshore, as well as those related to electric transmission. In addition, the economic viability of offshore wind projects is a key concern of developers. Namely, without a number of economic incentives, offshore wind energy is still more expensive at present than its more carbon-intensive alternatives. Finally, the political climate surrounding renewable energy generation varies greatly. Exploring key case studies at the federal, state and local levels helps to elucidate many of the sticking points that erode political support for offshore wind. Few clear remedies to these barriers present themselves. However, by analyzing how effectively SFTS meets its stated objectives and by discussing the impact of SFTS in facilitating offshore wind development, this thesis situates the impacts of SFTS in light of a greater national effort toward diversifying the sources of domestic energy.
Extent: 115 pages
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Woodrow Wilson School, 1929-2017

Files in This Item:
File SizeFormat 
PUTheses2015-Coffey_Cecelia.pdf1.46 MBAdobe PDF    Request a copy

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.