With deep waters off its coast and little shallow water, the west coast of the US has long been identified as a premier floating wind province, but analyses by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory suggest there is significant floating wind potential around the country.
A pipeline of in excess of 25 GW of bottom-fixed offshore wind already exists off the northeast coast of the US, but National Renewable Energy Laboratory offshore wind manager Walt Musial said that apart from the west coast, the US northeast and Great Lakes may also need floating wind in addition to bottom-fixed windfarms in order to meet demand. The Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic region also have floating wind potential, he suggested, if hurricane resistant designs are developed.
Speaking during the US Offshore Wind 2020 Virtual Conference on 18 June 2020, Mr Musial said floating wind projects might be ready to be implemented in US waters from 2024 onwards, when it is widely expected that the first commercial-scale projects outside the US will begin being built.
Mr Musial described a global floating wind market in which pre-commercial projects will have reached maturity by 2023, enabling utility-scale projects to be built from 2024. Mr Musial the highlighted the fact the 58% of the US offshore wind resource is in water depths exceeding 60 m and therefore better-suited to floating than bottom-fixed wind.
He noted that BOEM is planning wind energy lease areas off the west coast, and a number of call areas have been identified. In addition, there are unsolicited project areas of the west coast. It is anticipated that an auction process for leases offshore California will now be initiated in 2021.
Likewise, off the coast of the Hawaiian islands, there are a number of call areas for offshore wind, and three unsolicited proposals have also been submitted. These are primarily in the waters off the coast of Oahu, home to the bulk of the population in the Hawaiian islands, where demand for power is at its highest in the state.
Mr Musial said floating wind in the Great Lakes has significant potential because of proximity to large centres of population. If floating wind were to be developed in the Great Lakes, he said, new technology for ice resistant structures would need to be developed. Mr Musial said the total Great Lakes energy production potential in water depths of less than 60 m is 492 TWh/year. The total resource in water depths greater than 60 m water depth is 777 TWh/year.
“US commercialisation of floating wind will be accelerated by global market growth and increased market visibility,” said Mr Musial. “US commercial floating wind projects will follow soon after the first utility-sale projects elsewhere.” He said they would most likely be initiated in California and Hawaii. “We expect floating costs to converge with bottom-fixed costs and cost reduction for floating will be amplified by bottom-fixed supply chains and by market growth,” he concluded.