Well before I understood how essential it is that we realize our offshore wind power potential in America, I knew that there was something unspeakably special about the wind offshore. Something changed in me the first time I saw a sail fill with breeze. In my years sailing I have been awoken, driven, and humbled by the force of this immense resource blowing off our shores. And somewhere along my journeys on the water – be it in times of calm, steady sailing, or in the center of a midnight squall with gusts so loud they absorbed my voice the moment it left me – it clicked in me, that this is energy in the most pure and powerful sense of the word, and we ought to tap it.
I have always struggled to articulate the intensity (or the intense serenity) of the sailing experience. After a weekend on the water, I rarely feel that my stories effectively convey what I experienced. Perhaps that is because I have yet to sail in the presence of an America’s Cup film crew. Please, for the sake of justifying my dramatic language, take two minutes to watch this video on full screen:
Now I will hardly give all credit to the wind. What you just watched was a brilliant display of what happens when tacticians, engineers, and athletes bring their best together in the right place at the right time. But the force, the driver, the energy behind all the grandeur? That’s offshore wind. That’s power.
We need to harness these unending salty winds – the same ones that Oracle Team USA sailed to victory in the greatest comeback in America’s Cup history. Investing in responsibly-sited offshore wind energy projects offers simultaneous opportunities to:
- Diversify our energy portfolio, leading to lower and more predictable prices over time;
- Create high-quality, long-term jobs in both inland and coastal communities;
- Choose an energy path that protects the ocean from air and water pollution;
- Protect wildlife and future generations from the dangerous impacts of climate change.
Here at National Wildlife Federation, with Catherine Bowes and me as two passionate sailors at the helm of our Campaign for Offshore Wind Power, we imagined other sailors might share our enthusiasm for the opportunity that this resource presents. We took our theory on the road and to the water. At Block Island and Nantucket Race Weeks, and most recently at the Gosport Regatta off the coast of New Hampshire, we told sailors about the immense potential to generate clean energy off our shores. We touted the ongoing efforts by state officials, industry, and supporters like NWF to finally bring wind power to the Atlantic Coast.
As we expected, sailors got it, they reached for stickers and voiced their own version of: “that makes sense.” For those less easily convinced, the fact that European sailors successfully navigate nearly 2,000 turbines offers some helpful perspective. The Royal Yachting Association published a position paper on offshore wind last May, and stated simply that, “navigating around static hazards is part of sailing and only in rare situations, such as in narrow channels with strong tidal flows, do static installations pose a threat.” So I think it’s safe to say, in moment of glory for Oracle Team USA, that if Europe’s got this, so can we.
Even those concerned about how building offshore wind power might impact the marine environment came on board when they learned more about the European experience, and the comprehensive efforts of government and industry here in America to ensure projects are developed in an environmentally responsible manner. A reminder about the devastating impacts of fossil fuels on our vast but fragile ocean ecosystem – from climate change to ocean acidification –put into perspective the urgency of reaching our clean energy goals. And, as covered recently in Windcheck Magazine (a monthly publication “devoted to sailors and boaters in the Northeast”), the benefits to coastal economies just sweeten the deal.
Sailors have a unique understanding of just how strong the winds offshore can be, and just what these winds are capable of. At a time when clean energy needs every voice to ring together in a resounding demand for progress, there is a special place in this story for the sailing community.