The U.S. could see as many as 10 GW of offshore wind capacity installed by 2020. But it won't be easy, say industry experts.

"There are some 5 GW in planning right now, but who knows how much of this can be realized," says Dirk Matthys, the North American chief executive of Spanish turbine maker Gamesa. He says that growth will hinge on how fast the government can streamline a new program to approve projects.

Other hurdles such as local opposition and the need for a new transmission network could also hinder progress, says Matthys.

Nevertheless, he believes it is possible to develop 5-10 GW in the U.S. within the next decade.

Washington's incentive programs must also be increased for longer-term planning, observers add.

"There is a big lack of long-term incentives which you need for project planning purposes," says Mark Rodgers, communications director at Cape Wind, the company trying to develop the country's first offshore wind farm off the coast of Massachusetts.

According to Rodgers, the government has a project loan program and tax credit scheme in place for this year. But it's uncertain if these programs will be extended into 2012 and beyond.

Cape Wind, which has secured power purchase agreements for the first half of the facility's future output, hopes to begin building the 130 turbine wind farm late this year. However, the developer is still trying to find another buyer for the other half of the power.

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