“It’s nearly here. It’s just around the corner!” shared American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) CEO, Tom Kiernan, at the opening session of 2018 AWEA Offshore Wind Conference in Washington, D.C. last October. He’s referring to the message relayed over the last few years that the offshore wind is coming to the United States. “That’s no longer just a message. This is an exciting, transformative time where offshore wind is happening now.”
In his statement, Kiernan acknowledged the momentum of the sector as offshore auctions, project siting, and development occurs. This includes port infrastructure and vessel prep for the new industry.
“We’ve got 30 MW in the water right now,” he said, referring to the first commercial offshore wind project in the U.S., the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm off the coast of Rhode Island. “We expect 1,500 MW online by 2023 and 8,000 MW in the water by 2028, which is leading to some 40,000 jobs in our offshore wind industry.”
Although offshore wind power is still in the early stages of development in the United States, policymakers and developers are working diligently to push the industry forward. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, more than two-dozen offshore wind projects with a generating capacity of over 25 GW are in the planning stages, mainly off the U.S. Northeast and mid-Atlantic coasts.
“Fundamentally, we have a quality product…a strong offshore wind resource that kicks in when electricity is most in demand,” added Kiernan during his presentation. “Costs are also coming down as we’ve already seen in the onshore market.”
Liz Burdock agrees. She is the co-founder and executive director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, a national non-profit organization dedicated to building the U.S. offshore wind supply chain. “The benefits of offshore wind are numerous. This includes jobs — and once we hit 8 to 10 GW in development, which will likely happen sooner than anticipated, may grow quickly in excess of the 96,000 mark. Benefits also include clean-energy production that’s near the load centers, a reduction of CO2 emissions, as well as many health and economic advantages.”
Burdock says the benefits are near impossible to ignore. However, if the developing sector is to maintain its momentum and grow efficiently, the appropriate support structure is necessary. “One of the biggest challenges we face is supply-chain capacity,” says Burdock. This includes port infrastructure, transport vessels, and storage and manufacturing support.
“Do we have enough U.S. businesses that can participate and deliver these projects on budget and on time?” she asks. That’s the one question we have to answer as the industry pushes forward. “The ports are vital,” she adds.
Over the past year, numerous advances took place to secure offshore projects in the country. Here are a few promising ones.
- New Jersey opened the nation’s largest single-state solicitation of offshore wind to date for 1,100 MW. This is the first step in meeting the state’s goal of 3,500 MW of offshore wind by 2030.
- Earlier this year, Massachusetts doubled its offshore wind goal to 3,200 MW by 2035.
- The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held another offshore wind auction this past December that included nearly 390,000 acres offshore Massachusetts. The auction was for three offshore wind lease areas, with winning bids totaling a record-breaking $405 million from Equinor, Mayflower Wind Energy (a joint venture between Royal Dutch Shell and EDP Renewables), and Vineyard Wind.
- California’s Redwood Coast Energy Authority, with support from a consortium of private companies, submitted a lease application to the BOEM for a 100 to 150-MW floating offshore wind farm, more than 20 miles off the coast of Eureka.
- New York set a goal of 2.4 GW of new offshore wind generation by 2030. The first phase of the state’s procurements includes obtaining about 800 MW of offshore wind by 2019, which would create thousands of new jobs. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “Robust offshore wind development is not only critical to meeting our clean energy and carbon reduction goals, this investment has the potential to create thousands of jobs and fuel a $6 billion industry for New York as it combats climate change.”
- Connecticut announced that it will procure 200 MW of offshore wind power from Deepwater Wind’s Revolution project. The project will be built in the 256-square-mile federal Wind Energy Area between Block Island and Martha’s Vineyard. This is the same area Deepwater Wind (recently acquired by Ørsted) intends to build the 90-MW, 15-turbine South Fork Wind Farm, a project that would deliver power to southeast Long Island.
- The Maryland Public Service Commission awarded ORECs or offshore wind renewable energy credits to U.S. Wind. The developer plans to build 268 MW of nameplate capacity of offshore wind off the coast of Ocean City, which will grid-connect into Delaware.
- A recent federal review of Ohio’s proposed Icebreaker Wind project in Lake Erie found zero significant environmental impacts, including no significant effect on migratory birds. The six-turbine, 20.7-MW demonstration project is the first proposed freshwater wind farm in North America, 8 to 10 miles off the coast of Cleveland.
For a detailed list of the country’s offshore wind pipeline, click here.