Wind energy is one of the fastest growing electricity sources in the United States. Over the last five years, wind energy has accounted for 31 per cent of all newly installed electric generating capacity, second only to natural gas. There are now 62,300 megawatts (MW) of wind energy projects installed in 39 states and another 13,600 MW currently under construction. On an average annual basis, wind energy produces more than 25 per cent of the electricity in two states, 12 per cent or more in nine states, and 5 per cent or more in 17 states.
And this is all from land-based wind resources. The United States also has a vast offshore wind resource that represents a tremendous opportunity for our country. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) report, 20% Wind Energy by 2030, found that offshore wind capacity could provide 54 gigawatts (GW) of the 300 GW needed to deliver 20 per cent of the nation’s electricity from wind energy by 2030.
The success of land-based wind in the US is a critical part of efforts to build support for offshore wind. The jobs created, manufacturing facilities built, and reliable integration of large amounts of wind energy into the grid all demonstrate to policy makers and the public alike the opportunity that offshore wind represents and how it should be a vital component of our energy portfolio.
Developers are pursuing offshore wind energy projects along the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts as well as in the Gulf of Mexico and the Great Lakes. As a result of their significant job creation potential, environmental benefits and close proximity to demand, these projects have enjoyed the continued and expanding commitment from states, the federal government and environmental organisations.
SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENTS IN 2013 AND 2014
The US offshore wind industry has made significant progress over the last several years, and 2013 and 2014 in particular have been marked by an increased pace of achievements. This progress has taken place on multiple fronts, from regulatory to technological.
There are several projects in the advanced stages of the development process including Cape Wind’s 468 MW project in Massachusetts and Deepwater Wind’s 30 MW demonstration scale project offshore of Block Island, Rhode Island.
A key milestone came in June of 2013, when the first offshore wind turbine in the US – a 65-foot, one-eighth-scale model that utilises an innovative concrete semi-submersible foundation – was deployed by the University of Maine’s DeepCwind Consortium.
Also in 2013, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held the first two competitive lease auctions, one for two sites in an area off the coast of Rhode Island and Massachusetts and the other for an area off the coast of Virginia.
Developer Deepwater Wind was selected as the winner for the Rhode Island and Massachusetts sites. Dominion Virginia Power won the auction for the lease area off the coast of Virginia.
Furthermore, the state of Maryland enacted legislation in 2013 that created an offshore renewable energy certificate (OREC) programme to facilitate the development of 200 MW of offshore wind power.
There has been even more progress in 2014 with major milestones achieved in five states.
• In May 2014, DOI and BOEM announced a Call for Information and Nominations (Call) seeking developer interest in acquiring commercial wind leases in an area offshore of New York
• In June, DOI, BOEM and Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick announced plans to auction 742,000 acres offshore of Massachusetts for wind energy development. The proposed area is the largest in federal waters and will nearly double the area available for offshore wind energy projects in the US
• In July, DOI and BOEM announced plans to auction 344,000 acres offshore of New Jersey for wind energy development
• In August, DOI and BOEM announced three Wind Energy Areas offshore off North Carolina, which total approximately 307,590 acres, for potential wind energy development. These areas will now undergo an Environmental Assessment before the leasing process begins
• Finally, also in August, DOI and BOEM held an auction for Maryland’s offshore wind lease areas. U.S. Wind Inc., a unit of Italy’s Renexia, was the winner
INVESTMENT IN INNOVATION
As the project from the University of Maine’s DeepCwind Consortium demonstrates, the US is pursuing technological advances even as it works to get the offshore segment of the wind industry established. For its part, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) continues to make a significant investment in research and development. The DOE is committed to lowering the levelised cost of energy, accelerating permitting timelines, and promoting public and utility acceptance across regions with strong wind resources and developer interests. The research and development focus has involved both shallow water deployments in the Atlantic, Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico, as well as strategic investment in projects in deeper waters off the State of Oregon on the west coast and off the State of Maine on the east coast.
One example came with the DOE’s announcement in May 2014 of the winners of the next phase of its Offshore Wind Advanced Technology Demonstration Projects Initiative.
The three projects selected were Fishermen’s Energy’s 25 MW project offshore of Atlantic City, New Jersey; Dominion Power’s 12 MW project offshore of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and, on the west coast, Principle Power’s 30 MW project offshore of Coos Bay, Oregon.
Each team will receive up to $46.7 million over four years for continued efforts related to permitting, power off-take and grid interconnection in order to achieve operation by 2017. Both Fishermen’s Energy and Dominion will be utilising twisted jacket foundations, a technology by which three “legs” are twisted around a central column. These structures are easier to manufacture and install than traditional foundations and thereby will help to lower costs.
Principle Power will be utilising its WindFloat semi-submersible foundations. In this case, the turbines can be installed onshore and then towed out to the project site, which will help to reduce installation costs. A prototype of this foundation is currently operating off the coast of Portugal.
DOE also announced that under the same initiative they will enter into research agreements with project teams from the University of Maine and Lake Erie Energy Development Co. (LEEDCo), infusing several million more dollars into US offshore R&D efforts.
For the first phase of this initiative, seven teams received $4 million in 2012 for the engineering, site evaluation and planning phases of their projects.
Industry experts and analysts believe the offshore wind industry in the US is well positioned for significant growth in the coming years. The great potential for the offshore segment of the US wind energy industry demonstrates the need for continued focus and investment and, thus far, the private and public sectors are delivering.
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