If this headline holds true, U.S. offshore wind developers are bound to benefit from their patience and perseverance. After the trial and errors of Cape Wind (remember the proposed wind project off the shores of Cape Cod that hit permitting setbacks?), and the small victory of the five-turbine Block Island Wind Farm, offshore progress in America has been slow…yet steady.
Slow because siting and building in federal waters is a challenging feat. Vineyard Wind can attest to this. The developer of an 800-MW wind project 15 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard is undergoing evaluations by more than 25 federal, state, and local regulatory bodies — and approvals have been no easy feat. Vineyard was recently denied cable-lay permitting by a Massachusetts municipality vote.
Separately, the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has delayed issuance of a final environmental impact statement that would support the construction of the planned 84 offshore turbines.
However, such project delays (Vineyard Wind says “it remains viable and continues to move forward”) may give ports a chance to revamp their infrastructure to accommodate the offshore wind industry. Several ports — such as Massachusetts’ Brayton Point, which is fully re-developing into an offshore wind hub with heavy-lift capacity and grid services — are prepping to compete as part of the offshore wind supply chain.
A report from the Business Network of Offshore Wind suggests a collaborative approach is key, where port infrastructure is shared between developers to avoid bottlenecks and delays. Unfortunately, one U.S. port is unlikely to accommodate a project’s full requirements.
Despite obstacles, which will soon include the expiring production tax credits, the offshore wind industry is determined and steadily advancing. Currently, more than 20 GW is in the offshore project pipeline, with states continuing to make major commitments to the industry. New York is a leading example with the largest procurement of offshore wind power in U.S. history: 9 GW by 2025.
New York also pledged $200 million toward new port developments and recently selected five multi-year projects to advance the responsible development of offshore wind. This includes funding to better understand fish and bird behavior to mitigate potential impacts from wind turbines. Earlier this year, the fishing industry also signed a 10-year agreement with federal regulators (the BOEM, NOAA, and RODA) to collaborate on offshore wind development.
What’s more is several U.S. legislatures have introduced the bipartisan Offshore Wind Jobs and Opportunity Act, which would establish federal grants for offshore wind education and training. If passed, the bill would create a federal grant program to assist colleges, state and local governments, unions, and non-profits in the development of programs to prepare workers for sector jobs.
Together such efforts, however slow and steady, are bound to pay off. Fingers crossed.