A new report released by the Business Network for Offshore Wind finds that U.S. states on both coasts must do more than compete with each other for offshore wind energy. They must cooperate on several important fronts to develop a winning industry for the country.
The key concerns relate to the electric grid and transmission lines required to deliver offshore wind power to homes. Other challenges mentioned in the report include uncertainty within the supply chain for the U.S. offshore wind industry, cost controls for ratepayers, and the limitation of certain U.S. resources, such as ports.
With the help of about 100 offshore wind experts from here and abroad, the Network’s Leadership 100 report recommends steps the U.S. industry, including elected officials in coastal states, must take to ensure global leadership on offshore wind.
Liz Burdock, the President and CEO of the Business Network, released the report to over 300 members from the offshore wind industry, following her participation in the Offshore Wind Summit this week in Boston, hosted by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, a Network member. “From Massachusetts to Virginia, the U.S. is on track to create an offshore wind energy marketplace exceeding 10 gigawatts by 2030. We need American intelligence and team building to build a homegrown offshore wind industry,” she said.
During the next two decades, East Coast states and California will have over two-dozen offshore wind farms under development in various stages. Despite these ambitious plans, Europe has been way ahead of the U.S. for a much longer time. Today the U.S. has only one functioning offshore wind turbine, compared to Europe’s 4,543 grid-connected offshore wind turbines across 11 countries.
“States, such as Massachusetts New York and others, are working to build an industry to protect the environment, generate jobs, and provide affordable renewable energy,” added Burdock. They are competing with other U.S. states and, rightly so. But, states must also cooperate to minimize public costs, share resources and globalize what the U.S. has to offer. Our report lays out a plan for making us a valuable energy renewable industry, not just for this country, but also for the entire world.”
The Network developed the Leadership 100 report at a summit that took place in January. Three priority areas emerged as the most important items to advance the industry.
1. The development of an industry road map
2. Recommendations for offshore wind states on advancing grid and transmission projects
3. The launching of a public engagement campaign.
Ross Tyler, the Network’s Executive VP, said much of the supply chain in offshore wind is international. U.S. projects and their supply chains are competing against Asia and Europe for resources. The U.S. has unique challenges and constraints when compared to Asia and Europe. An industry roadmap can help U.S. developers and government entities identify this country’s supply chain capacity and its assets, strengths, gaps, and resources.
The report also found that the roadmap will support regional port strategies and technical explanations for special scalable solutions, cooperation on workforce issues, and insights on local supply chain development.
Along with Massachusetts’ interest in moving to 1.6 GW of offshore wind — the largest amount of proposed production in any state — New York’s announcement to increase its commitment of 2,400 MW to 9,000 MWs accelerates the need to quickly address electricity delivery and grid integration. Currently the Northeast grid can accept 4,000 MWs of power. Providing electricity beyond 4,000 is uncertain.
Tyler said states will need to build the infrastructure to allow gigawatts on the grid. The report said new models, including ground breaking and disruptive policy, should be explored to expand energy generation and transmission capacity.
“If the problem is not addressed soon, the offshore wind market could be held back, and policymakers’ clean energy targets may slip,” he said. “What’s necessary is communicating the risks of not acting on this issue and determining the benefits for congestion relief & ancillary services to incentivize state officials to build the infrastructure that allows gigawatts to be placed on the grid.”
States and the private sector industry should enter into constructive dialogue to discuss the grid/transmission strategy. Once problems are resolved, overall costs can be lowered for ratepayers, the report found. Also, it recommends an updated U.S. Department of Energy study for the Northeast, where most of the offshore wind is being developed. New data is needed to inform the conversations with local, state, and federal officials.
Also required is a public outreach campaign that should focus on positive impacts to the environment and the economy, as well as reduce power costs compared to other energy sources.
Environmental and visual impacts can weigh heavily on public support of offshore wind projects. They can slow market momentum unless they are not addressed early and proactively. In a recent study published in Energy Policy, researchers from the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the University of Rhode Island set out to examine public attitudes toward offshore wind development and found some concerns, such as harm to wildlife and negative impacts on the recreation and fishing industries.
The report argued that the public should be informed about the commercial benefit of offshore wind, jobs created for the area, how it will reduce the cost of power to ratepayers, as well as protect the environment.