With Steel in the Water, All Eyes Now Turned to the US Offshore Wind Market

Author: Valerie Stori, Clean Energy Group | Project: Offshore Wind Accelerator Project

Block Island Wind Farm. Photo by Val Stori. Over 400 developers, marine industries, state and federal agency representatives, environmental advocates, state representatives, and manufacturing and supply chain companies gathered in Newport, Rhode Island earlier this week at the International Partners Forum hosted by the Business Network for Offshore Wind and the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative. Keynote panelists at the Forum echoed the energy and excitement in the hotel ballroom—the US offshore wind (OSW) industry is off the ground and, with several states moving forward with favorable policies, looking toward a promising future.

Massachusetts has helped lay the groundwork for moving the US offshore wind industry from infancy. New Massachusetts’ legislation requiring utilities to enter into power purchase agreements for offshore wind power was enacted this summer. New York, which has long been regarded as a promising market, has released an Offshore Wind Blueprint in advance of its Offshore Wind Master Plan—a New York state roadmap on how to develop OSW to meet the state’s Clean Energy Standard mandate. Anthony Fiore from the NY Mayor’s Office of Sustainability announced that the City is interested in being an OSW power off-taker and encouraged BOEM to identify more wind energy areas. The City has adopted an 80% by 2050 renewable energy goal. In addition, there was much discussion in Forum sessions of the updated National Offshore Wind Strategy last month, which the US Department of Energy and Department of Interior released last month and which identifies policy actions for streamlining the development of 86GW by 2050.

The west coast is also considering offshore wind. Walt Musial, Principal Engineer at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), presented NREL cost-modeling data for floating OSW and spoke on OSW’s value proposition for the US Pacific coast—the OSW resource lines up very well with the evening peak ramp-up period and is complementary to solar. Karen Douglas, Commissioner for the California Clean Energy Commission, spoke of the opportunities and challenges for offshore wind at the closing plenary session. Commissioner Douglas explained that California has vast experience managing high penetration of renewable energy, including siting, permitting, and transmission planning—all the state’s experience with landscape-scale planning well positions the state for developing offshore wind at the scale needed to meet California’s aggressive climate and energy goals. Furthermore, the state has numerous retiring coastline power plants and the transmission infrastructure in place to support OSW. If deep-water technical risks, costs, and permitting challenges can be overcome, construction and operation could begin by 2030.

In addition to the federal and state updates, the IPF offered a large number of sessions covering a wide variety of topics. Session topics covered technical issues, finance challenges, navigation risks and planning, R&D, supply chain innovation, risk management tools, infrastructure planning, and more. The US DOE facilitated a panel session on its three advanced demonstration project awards; Fishermen’s Energy, the University of Maine, and the Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo) updated the audience on the advances each has made in developing innovative OSW foundation designs and their next steps towards project deployment.

Over the three-day conference, panelists reiterated the importance of driving down costs. Cost reductions are an absolute necessity for driving the offshore wind industry forward. Cost reductions can be made all along the supply chain, but construction risks must be minimized and market demand must be visible. Supportive state and federal regulations and strong renewable energy markets are also key to driving down costs and attracting investors. Cost reductions are the central theme to NYSERDA’s multi-state roadmap initiative for offshore wind, said Doreen Harris, Program Manager for Large-scale Renewables at NYSERDA. NYSERDA is participating in an effort with Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and Maine to identify actions states could take individually and collaboratively to get offshore wind to scale at reduced cost. A strategy is expected to be released by mid-2017. You can keep updated on the multi-state initiative at www.northeastwindcenter.org/offshore-wind/multi-state.