The U.S. offshore wind industry is expected to grow substantially over the next few years. Several offshore auctions have already taken place, ports have begun restructuring to better serve the market, and the Department of Energy recently announced up to $28 million in funding for offshore wind R&D.
However, the offshore wind siting process is relatively slow and complex, and the local industry is working diligently to ensure success. Liz Burdock, Executive Director for the Business Network for Offshore Wind (the Network), recently spoke with Windpower Engineering & Development to share an update on offshore wind industry in America. The Network is a national non-profit organization dedicated to building the U.S. offshore wind supply chain.
Below Burdock answers our questions about offshore wind’s current status, infrastructure, economics, and even its potential effect on marine life.
Q. Can you please update us on the current progress of offshore wind in the United States?
A. The U.S. Department of the Interior Bureau of Ocean and Energy Management (BOEM), has auctioned 16 U.S. offshore wind energy areas (WEAs) designated in waters for offshore wind development. Each area has been leased to a qualified offshore wind developer. The areas are located along the East Coast from North Carolina to Massachusetts and represent a total potential capacity of 21,000 MW of offshore wind power generation.
The U.S. Offshore Wind market currently stands at 16,970 MW and is a subset of the total U.S. potential generation capacity. The market is defined as the amount of offshore wind electricity that could be supported by a state-supported financial mechanism. In the U.S. these financial mechanisms are typically either a power purchase agreement (PPA) or an offshore renewable energy credit (OREC).
In January 2019, New York announced more than a three-fold increase in their commitment to support the development of offshore wind from 2,400 to 9,000 MW — jolting the offshore wind market with a 64% increase in market size To date, six commercial-scale projects and two demonstration projects comprise the U.S. offshore wind project pipeline, which totals close to 1,800 MW.
Q. Port infrastructure has been cited as one challenge the industry faces as it moves toward development, what other potential challenges do you think are important to consider?
A. The development of ports and port infrastructure is imperative. Other issues such as bringing down costs for ratepayers, having enough transmission capacity and interconnection points to the grid, workforce development, and working with the commercial fishing fleets are just as important.
Q. If you had one suggestion to help states push the offshore wind sector forward, whether it be in terms of policy or industry support, what would it be?
A. Probably the most important factor is executive and legislative support for sound, long-term offshore wind policy. In states where we see active development of offshore wind, it’s because of high-level support from the governor and legislature. States such as New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey have prioritized offshore wind through carve-outs and laws that promulgate the development of offshore wind.
For example, the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm — the first and only operating U.S. offshore wind project in the U.S. — could not have been possible without the support and leadership of Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and her predecessor, Governor Donald Carcieri.
Q. Can you speak to the ways offshore turbines may affect marine life?
A. Offshore wind turbine foundations provide artificial reefs, which attract mussels and then the black seas bass, cod, and other game fish who feed on them. This has been a boon for recreational fishermen who have reported excellent fishing near the five Block Island wind turbines. Setting the foundations and laying the cables can disrupt the ocean floor during construction, but history has shown that the ocean bottom recovers within a few months.
However, it’s important that offshore wind developers consult with the commercial fishing interests to avoid the most productive fishing grounds. Regarding marine mammals, offshore wind developers avoid pile driving foundations during key mating seasons in sensitive locations to minimize negative effects on these animals. Studies have also shown that wind farms 10 miles or more off the shoreline have minimal effects on migrating birds.
The federal approval process also requires developers to thoroughly identify possible conflicts not only around marine habitat but similar issues such as geophysical conditions and archeological concerns as well. Construction cannot begin until BOEM approves the developer’s Construction and Operations Plan, or COP, a massive document that details the specific steps the developer is obligated to take to avoid and mitigate these concerns.
Q. Aside from employment gains, in what ways do you think offshore wind will benefit the country’s economy?
A. The Atlantic coast offers strong wind resources in proximity to approximately 45% of the nation’s population and its associated energy needs. This new source of power for East Coast cities will transform the grid and provide a stable source of electricity for many years to come. As the U.S. offshore wind supply chain takes shape, the industry will revitalize East Coast ports and their surrounding areas as supporting businesses move in to supply more components and services.
Q. In what ways is The Network supporting the industry…and how can wind advocates help out?
A. The Business Network for Offshore Wind is a national membership-based nonprofit solely focused on U.S. offshore wind energy and the industry’s supply chain. The Network is working hard to identify solutions to market challenges and build out the US Supply chain by delivering technical expertise and education, and partnering businesses.
Simply put, we bring global experience and expertise to the U.S. marketplace. Wind advocates can support us by contacting their legislators and urging them to pass laws and policies that promote the offshore wind industry, especially tax breaks and other incentives, and to increase investments in this dynamic business.
For more information on offshore wind, please click here.
Filed Under: News, Offshore wind