Despite the delays the project has experienced, Lars Thaaning Pedersen, chief executive of Vineyard Wind, the first commercial-scale offshore wind project in the US, is upbeat about the US offshore wind market as whole
Speaking at the US Offshore Wind 2020 Virtual Conference on 18 June 2020, Mr Pedersen said, “Offshore wind will happen in the US. It’s a question of when, and how much.”
Mr Pedersen said the delayed project had led to “learnings on both sides,” by the company and the industry as a whole, and by regulators in the US.
Referring to the supplemental environmental impact statement undertaken by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management of the Vineyard Wind project, Mr Pedersen said “As the regulations mature, we are learning a lot, and the regulators are also learning about offshore wind. There have been a lot of learnings on both sides.
“We are coalescing around a way to do it,” he said of the regulatory process in the US. “We have gained a much greater appreciation of what the regulations actually mean.”
Mr Pedersen said all involved in the process now also have a much greater understanding of, and involvement in, the stakeholder process than might have been the case beforehand.
Asked about the potential for offshore wind on the west coast of the US, and whether projects there might benefit from the work that has been done on east coast projects like Vineyard Wind, Mr Pedersen said, “I think two years from now the regulatory process will be much clearer, but if the federal government does some leasing for floating wind off California, say in 2021, we may need to go through a similar learning process, especially with regard to fishing and marine mammals, but I think that getting started is the best way to do it.”
Asked about the supply chain in the US and whether it was ready to meet the demands of the many large-scale projects queuing up to be built off the northeast coast of the country, Mr Pedersen said joint ventures between US companies and European companies with experience of offshore wind would be an essential part of the process.
Offshore wind in the US “won’t work” if components have to be imported into the US, he said. “We need to see European companies with experience of offshore wind forming joint ventures and partnering with American companies with experience of operating in the US. We are really encouraging this joint venture idea. If everybody has to go through the learning curve, it will take too long.”
Mr Pedersen said European companies trying to work in the US market on their own were unlikely to succeed and US companies trying to enter the market without any offshore wind experience was unlikely to be a successful approach either. For the first round of commercial projects at least, joint ventures would be the way forward.
“I think there’s a big challenge for all us getting ports developed,” said Mr Pedersen. “It is a marine construction industry. We will be highly dependent on ports, and so are suppliers. There is a structural challenge that we need to overcome in the next few years.” Earlier this month, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy announced plans to develop New Jersey Wind Port, the first port in the US dedicated to offshore wind, a facility that will host staging, assembly and manufacturing activity for offshore windfarms on the US east coast.
Overall, said Mr Pedersen, there is a huge potential in the northeast that goes beyond current lease areas, not least because of the huge load centres on the northeast coast of the country where there are few other viable alternatives.
“Onshore wind is difficult to build in highly populated areas, large-scale solar is the same,” he said. In contrast, offshore wind solves most of the problems in the energy sector in the region, he said, "especially if we can deliver at the right price point.
“I think the northeast will become similar to the North Sea, there will be many challenges, we need to find transmission solutions, but the fundamentals are just really, really strong in the northeast.”