Offshore wind power in Europe saw a record 3,148 MW of net installed capacity last year alone. Britain also broke installation records by accounting for more than half of that in new offshore wind capacity. Perhaps it is time the United States sped up its offshore progress.
After completing one small yet successful five-turbine offshore wind farm south of Rhode Island, the U.S. is slowly working toward future projects. National offshore wind standards are in the works and New York has called for 2,400 MW of offshore wind energy by 2030. In addition, New Jersey plans to bring 3,500 MW of offshore wind online by 2030, while Connecticut has made requests for clean-energy proposals including up to 220 MW of offshore wind.
Project bids in Massachusetts seemed promising, however, the state recently passed over developer Deepwater Wind’s proposed Revolution Wind offshore project in the first of two requests for proposals (under the Massachusetts Clean Energy initiative). Currently two other Massachusetts’ projects, Bay State Wind and Vineyard Wind, are still up for grabs, with a decision expected in late April.
Considering that about half of the U.S. population lives near coastal areas and winds are typically stronger and more consistent offshore, offshore wind farms in these areas can help meet regional power needs in a safe, efficient manner. If cleaner energy fails to attract state legislatures and decision-makers, job creation should denote interest.
It is worth noting that the U.S. unemployment rate stood at a 17-year low of 4.1% in January 2018. However, a productive offshore wind industry could make a noticeable dent in that rate, at least according to a recent study. U.S. Job Creation in Offshore Wind, authored by the Clean Energy States Alliance with the support of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, reports that developing 8 GW of offshore wind between Maryland to Maine would create almost 40,000 full-time U.S. jobs by 2028. The study says this would also lead to 500,000 full-time jobs over the long term.
Just imagine if the projected 86 GW of offshore wind power gets built by 2050. It would support 160,000 full-time U.S. jobs. The U.S. Job Creation study points out that this would also boost supply chain jobs in the U.S. offshore and onshore wind sectors, which it says currently employs 250,000 and 100,000, respectively.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Energy Technologies Office has been working to advance a national strategy to create and facilitate the development of an offshore wind industry in the U.S. since 2011. It is now seven years later.
One way to advance offshore development is education. For instance, the International Offshore Wind Partnering Forum (IPF) is a technical offshore wind conference scheduled for April 3 to 6 in Princeton, New Jersey. This year event will feature technologies and presentations from industry leaders from Europe and the U.S., including representatives from Orsted, Statoil, Deepwater Wind, DNV GL, Siemens Gamesa, MHI Vestas, LM Wind Power, the U.S. Departments of Energy and Interior, and others.
We interviewed Liz Burdock, Executive Director for the Business Network for Offshore Wind, the sponsor of IPF, last year. Her thoughts on offshore wind: “A reason I am such a strong advocate for offshore wind is because of the jobs it creates. It is probably about three times that of what’s offered by other renewable sectors, such as solar or even onshore wind.”
Burdock said the goal of the Business Network and IPF is to inform, educate, and connect businesses, developers, and global experts in offshore wind. “As the only organization in the whole country focused solely on offshore wind, we have become the primary voice for the offshore industry in the U.S.”
Let’s carry this voice — one dedicated to clean energy and job creation— forward.