The momentum building for the development of offshore wind power in the U.S. was on full display over the last two days during the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition at the Baltimore Convention Center in Baltimore, Maryland.
Hundreds of attendees, including wind energy industry leaders, government officials, investors, academics, and advocates, were buzzing about the Block Island Wind Farm, the nation’s first offshore wind farm. The Rhode Island project, developed by Deepwater Wind, is now under construction and is set to be completed in 2016.
“American offshore wind power is ramping up with a pipeline of projects moving forward,” said Tom Kiernan, AWEA CEO. “Land-based wind is leading the way as those costs have come down 66 percent in just six years. With continued technology advancement and planning offshore wind in the U.S. will follow a similar path.”
Conference attendees had even more reasons to be excited as the U.S. has 13 offshore projects in various stages of development and the industry surpassed 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 Wind Farm is just the start of something much bigger,” said Deepwater Wind CEO Jeffrey Grybowski. “Offshore wind provides the United States 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 reenergize local economies.”
Along with Rhode Island, Maryland has emerged as a national leader for offshore wind. The state’s pursuance of financial incentives and conducting early survey work is expected to expedite project development and permitting. The Free State is home to US Wind’s proposed 500 megawatt (MW) project, which has conducted site survey work to design and place steel foundations off Ocean City, Maryland. Once completed, the project would supply enough energy to power 300,000 American homes.
Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) announced that it will auction almost 350,000 acres starting 7 miles offshore New Jersey in two leases for offshore wind development on Nov. 9, 2015. And in North Carolina, the Department of the Interior and BOEM conducted an environmental assessment and found no significant impact would result from development of offshore wind energy areas in the state. After meeting with the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force next month, BOEM will publish a Proposed Sale Notice.
Across the country, the U.S. could install a total of 86,000 MW of offshore projects nationwide by 2050 according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). That growth would necessitate an entirely new supply chain that could make big waves by helping to revitalize America’s port cities and supporting well-paying jobs.
AWEA Offshore WINDPOWER keynote 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 realize U.S. offshore development. They highlighted the importance of partnerships, information sharing, and the powerful case for offshore wind in the U.S.
Developing offshore wind power in the U.S. can also provide significant consumer benefits. Offshore wind captures the sea breeze on hot summer afternoons, which kicks in when electricity is most needed and often very expensive. Zero-fuel cost wind energy contributes to reductions in wholesale electricity prices, adds to fuel diversity, and provides a hedge against volatile fossil fuel prices. Further benefits for ratepayers result from offshore wind’s ability to reduce congestion in the PJM region and elsewhere.
Stable policy is a key element in helping the U.S. wind industry bring costs down, drive investment, and create jobs. Extending the renewable energy Production Tax Credit and Investment Tax Credit this year remains critical for keeping Americans at work, reducing the cost of wind energy and continuing to scale up this homegrown resource through the end of this decade.
AWEA Offshore WINDPOWER Conference & Exhibition is the largest offshore wind power gathering in the U.S.