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The rise of U.S. offshore wind
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The White House recently announced a series of actions to catalyse the offshore wind sector and achieve a goal of 30 gigawatts (GW) by 2030. With the focus on Earth Day and President Biden’s climate summit last week, our renewable experts have taken a broad look at the actions needed to further kick-start the huge potential that offshore wind energy can bring to the U.S. economy.

The famous Bob Dylan lyric went “the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, the answer is blowin' in the wind”. It may seem like a trivial link, but one of the answers to that question as we work to meet the goals of the energy transition and climate change is offshore wind. For many years, the U.S. offshore wind sector has been on a slower path than its peers in other parts of the world. Yet, with decades of offshore expertize and many projects in the pipeline, it’s certainly an area that the U.S. will grow and position itself as the world transitions to a cleaner energy future. The Global Wind Energy Council estimates that globally offshore wind will surge to over 234 GW by 2030, with the US currently having development targets of 30 GW by 2030. Wood is heavily invested in the wind sector, having supported 20% of installed global wind capacity and involvement in over 130 offshore wind projects across the globe.

The sector is driven by policy direction and investment from both the private and public sectors. Recent announcements from the White House include providing access to $3 billion in debt capital which will go to support offshore wind development, investing in infrastructure, research and development that will greatly advance development. With this strategic commitment, we are now seeing a push to finalize development and installation of projects such as Vineyard Wind. It is widely recognized that there is an immense amount of money being invested that will lead to thousands of U.S. jobs and is a win-win in terms of where the market is heading.

It is also fair to say that this is wider than just a government directive. The pace of change in technologies to transform our current offshore footprint is crucial. Across many states, administrations are lining up their own goals to further integrate renewables into their energy systems as part of a lower carbon solution. Wood is seeing this develop across the Eastern United States, in the Gulf of Mexico and on the West Coast. Half of the U.S. population live in major coastal cities where energy demand is high, so these locations for projects are key.

At present, around 90% of projects are in the Northeast. These are related to the physical location where you’re dealing with a shallow continental shelf that runs out for hundreds of miles. This allows for foundations in relatively shallow water to suit such structures and enable subsea cables to be connected more readily to the grid. But if you start moving further north into Maine waters or out off the West Coast, water depths drop precipitously within just a few hundred yards of the shore. Technological challenges are greater when developing an offshore wind farm in these conditions, so Wood is working to help develop the technology and structuressuch as floating wind foundations that suit offshore wind farms in these key geographic locations.

Using floating wind in the Northeast hasn’t made the most sense except for areas off of Maine where some demonstration projects of smaller scale are taking place. Fixed foundations are used for most other offshore wind farms. Some of the offshore developments are moving to pile driven foundations, while others are looking at gravity-based blocks to weigh down the foundations. We’re never really going to see a competition between fixed and floating wind in this environment, because it doesn’t make engineering nor economic sense. In the West, it will be all floating wind and no fixed.

What is also helping growth is the leading role the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is playing in allowing development in federal waters and working with the many stakeholders in planning. The regulatory body is optimistic about the role that offshore wind can play in key coastal states, many of whom are in the process of setting offshore targets. Recently the state of Oregon has raised a Floating Wind Bill that seeks to ensure 3GW of offshore wind within federal waters by 2030. Progress in the West might be behind some of the early movement from states in the Northeast, but certainly we are seeing an increase in opportunities.

We believe the U.S. offshore wind industry is poised for tremendous growth as we transition to a more diverse energy portfolio. It is behind the curve of our European and Asian counterparts, but it’s clear from recent policy announcements that the U.S. is serious about growing this industry and utilising the natural conditions that exist just a few miles off our coast to power the next industrial revolution.

Name: Ray Pasquariello

Job title: Renewable Energy Program Director

Ray is the Renewable Energy Program Director for Wood Resilient Environments. Based in Rhode Island, Ray has more than 25 years of experience in environmental resource management. He has spent most of this time working on energy infrastructure projects, including offshore wind developments, interstate natural gas pipeline transmission projects, electric transmission line upgrades, LNG facilities, and submerged offshore cable and pipeline projects.

Name: Chuck Harman

Job title: Offshore Wind Technical Lead

Chuck is a Technical Lead for Offshore Wind for Wood on the East Coast. Located in New Jersey, Chuck has more than 35 years of experience with the permitting and siting of conventional and renewable energy projects. Chuck directed completion of the permitting and siting for one of the first offshore wind farms proposed to be located off the coast of Southern New Jersey.

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