Things are changing in the US offshore wind market. As highlighted in OWJ and on the OWJ website, offshore wind energy potential in the US is enormous, but as has been evident with early efforts, so are the challenges to making offshore projects a reality. However, things really do seem to be happening in the US, and this summer and autumn saw major developments in the nascent offshore wind industry in the country, including the start of construction on the first offshore windfarm, and more details about Danish energy giant Dong Energy’s plans for the US market.
“American offshore wind power is ramping up with a pipeline of projects moving forward,” said Tom Kiernan ceo of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Land-based wind is leading the way as those costs have come down 66 per cent in just six years. With continued technology advancement and planning, offshore wind in the US will follow a similar path.” Delegates at a recent AWEA conference heard that the US has 13 offshore projects in various stages of development, and the industry passed several regulatory milestones this summer.
“We’re proud to be at the forefront of launching a new American renewable energy industry, and we’re confident that the Block Island windfarm is just the start of something much bigger,” said Deepwater Wind ceo Jeffrey Grybowski. “Offshore wind provides the US with its best opportunity for a new large-scale source of affordable, efficient energy. We’re more optimistic now than ever about the potential of offshore wind to transform the country’s energy future and to re-energise local economies.”
Along with Rhode Island, Maryland has emerged as a national leader for offshore wind. The state’s pursuit of financial incentives and early survey work is expected to expedite project development and permitting. The ‘Free State’ is home to US Wind’s proposed 500MW project, which has conducted site survey work to design and place steel foundations off Ocean City, Maryland, and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) recently announced that it would auction acreage offshore New Jersey in two leases for offshore wind development. In North Carolina, the Department of the Interior and BOEM have conducted an environmental assessment and found no significant impact would result from development of offshore wind energy areas in the state.
“Across the country, the US could install a total of 86GW of offshore projects by 2050,” said the AWEA, quoting US Department of Energy figures. That growth would necessitate an entirely new supply chain that could make big waves by helping to revitalise America’s ports and create jobs.
AWEA conference speakers Abigail Ross Hopper, director, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Department of the Interior, and Jose Zayas, director, Water and Wind Energy Technologies, Department of Energy, agreed that real progress has been made this year to realise US offshore development. They highlighted the importance of partnerships, information sharing and the powerful case for offshore wind in the US.
An Energy Department report released in late September showed strong progress in the US market. Apart from Block Island, the report describes 20 other projects totalling 15.65GW in the planning and development pipeline. Of these 21 projects, 13 projects totalling nearly 6GW are in the more advanced stages of development, and 12 projects with more than 3.3GW planned have announced a commercial operation date by 2020.
The US 2014-2015 Offshore Wind Technologies Market Report was prepared for the Energy Department by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and builds on the success and utility of the Energy Department’s annual Wind Technologies Market Report and Distributed Wind Market Report, which provide stakeholders with reliable and consistent data sources for their respective markets. Deepwater Wind began construction of the Block Island windfarm off the coast of Rhode Island this spring. The 30MW project is expected to be operational by autumn 2016. In addition to Rhode Island, offshore wind projects in eight other states are also in the advanced stages of development.
Dong Energy is in the early stages of planning the Bay State Wind project, which would be one of the world’s largest offshore windfarms if built. Located approximately 25 kilometres off the coast of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts, the 1GW windfarm would be built in a lease area acquired for the site by RES Americas. Dong Energy describes the Bay State project as a utility-scale offshore windfarm and says it would be built in water depths of 40–50 metres. The company says additional feasibility assessment and stakeholder engagement at a local and state level will now be undertaken. Initial evaluations by the project team show there are similar site conditions between the US East Coast and successful projects in Europe, with Massachusetts having some of the best offshore wind conditions in the world. A total of one-third of the potential offshore wind resource of the US is located on the East Coast, says Dong Energy.