The U.S. offshore wind industry is set to deliver significant economic benefits over the next decade and stands ready to play a leading role in the nation’s economic recovery. U.S. offshore wind development will deliver billions in new economy activity, support tens of thousands of jobs, create new American supply chains and revitalize port communities. Nearly 1,100 attendees joined us online last week for the AWEA Offshore WINDPOWER 2020 Virtual Summit to discuss how we can build this industry inclusively and responsibly and cultivate the next generation of clean energy leaders. This year’s conference theme, “Offshore Wind: Building the Future,” focused on the economic impact and opportunities that offshore wind brings to the U.S.
After a sold out 2019 event, we were looking forward to continuing the momentum. Though we had hoped to come together in person, adaptability is key in 2020 as we navigate the country’s rapidly changing environment. The switch to a virtual event allowed us to remove space limitations and provide companies with the opportunity to send unlimited participants while remaining thoughtful about fluctuating budgets.
Special thanks to our program chairs, Damian Bednarz, External Affairs Director at EnBW North America and Alana Duerr, Director Offshore Wind North America at DNV-GL, in addition to the full program committee for volunteering their time and knowledge. I was amazed by the amount of education and top-notch speakers packed into two days: 20 live streamed sessions, 13 on-demand presentations and 20 posters!
I couldn’t catch every session but look forward to watching the recordings of what I missed. Here are a few highlights of what I was able to watch live:
- Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced the creation of his state’s first offshore and onshore wind workforce training collaborative, Mid-Atlantic Wind Training Alliance.
- New York Lt. Governor Kathy Hochul, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper and Governor Northam all shared the value and economic benefits offshore wind brings to their states and reiterated their states’ commitment to diversify renewable energy resources with offshore wind.
- AWEA’s CEO Tom Kiernan kicked off the Virtual Summit by highlighting the once-in-a-generation opportunity to create a brand-new energy industry for America. Kiernan shared how offshore wind development will create numerous economic benefits by tapping into the expertise of communities and professionals throughout the country, including legacy energy workers and businesses along the Gulf Coast
- Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson chatted with EnBW North America’s Damian Bednarz about the Blue New Deal, using storytelling to bolster the offshore wind industry and the need for inclusivity. Dr. Johnson is a marine biologist, policy expert, and founder of the non-profit think tank Urban Ocean Lab, founder and CEO of the consultancy Ocean Collective, and co-creator and co-host of the Spotify/Gimlet podcast How to Save a Planet. She dove into the ways the fight around climate change and racial justice go hand in hand: “When I think about the need for racial justice as a way to address the climate crisis, I think not just of who’s getting impacted first and worst by climate change, which we know is poor communities and communities of color, but also how insane is it to try to solve the largest problem humanity has ever faced without including a third of Americans and thinking that we could possibly get it right.”
- One of my favorite sessions was “Women Powering Offshore Wind.” This all-star panel of female leaders focused on opportunities and careers in Offshore Wind for everyone. In addition to sharing their career experience in offshore wind, the panel discussed cultivating leadership and inspiring women to take part in the economic development opportunities provided by this new and exciting industry in the U.S. The panel also touched on what businesses can do during the hiring process and culturally to get more women in the field.
- In a government panel on growing the Blue Economy, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) Acting Director Walter Cruickshank discussed the job benefits offshore wind can provide in the blue economy, including job growth in manufacturing installation, operations and maintenance and support services. Cruickshank emphasized the importance of partnerships, going into details on several that are of importance to BOEM including the National Oceanographic Partnership, partnerships with AWEA and NREL regarding offshore wind standards, intergovernmental renewable energy task forces, and the BOEM/NOAA collaboration with the Responsible Offshore Development Alliance (RODA).
- NOAA Deputy Administrator Rear Admiral Tim Gallaudet stressed the importance of partnerships and collaboration between industry, science and technology, academia, and the public sector, which will keep the momentum going for offshore wind and grow the blue economy. Gallaudet highlighted the five pillars of the Blue Economy (1) ocean mapping and exploration (which he noted was one of NOAA’s primary methods to advance offshore wind energy) (2) tourism and recreation (3) seafood competitiveness (4) marine transportation and (5) coastal resilience. Gallaudet also emphasized the importance of data and science in supporting mixed use of the ocean, including offshore wind.
- John Lavelle, CEO of Offshore Wind at GE Renewable Energy, was enthusiastic about the huge opportunity in offshore wind, citing the demand for renewable energy and the massive investments in technology that have helped to bring down the cost of offshore wind. He also discussed the need to move faster with certainty in the U.S. to fully realize the benefits of offshore wind, stating that “streamlining the permitting process is critical for U.S. offshore wind to compete with the global markets.”
- EnBW North America’s Damian Bednarz spoke with Ali Zaidi, Deputy Secretary to New York Governor Anthony Cuomo and Chairman of Climate Policy and Finance, about the two key pillars to build offshore wind smart from the start: “Engage deeply with labor” and “integrate environmental justice into the development of renewable energy.”
- In the Navigation Realities in Offshore Wind Projects Session, Captain Chris Anderson with Atlantic Wind Transfers, which serves the Block Island Wind Farm, joined us straight from his vessel! And we heard from Jaime Robertson, Managing Director of the Holderness Fishing Industry Group and Yorkshire Marine Research Centre, who spoke about a success story of co-existence within the Westermost Rough Offshore Wind Farm in the UK. It was encouraging to hear him reaffirm results have shown that despite initial concerns the wind farm would harm prime lobster grounds, the wind farm hasn’t had an overall effect and catch rates have been throughout the entire seven-year period since construction of the wind farm began. Captain Robertson also highlighted the benefits his fishing group has seen from offshore wind, including collaboration on science, and investment in the community that has bought safety equipment and improved landing facilities at smaller ports, among others.
It’s no surprise the hardest part to recreate in a virtual event is the business development and networking. However, we need that human interaction now more than ever! The Offshore event offered a few different unique ways to connect:
- Virtual Marketplace: This virtual booth experience allowed attendees to meet one-on-one with leading product & service providers to get their direct questions and needs addressed. In addition to learning about the newest technologies out there, attendees could browse the company resources and video chat when they were ready to learn more.
- Poster Reception: The poster gallery allowed attendees to listen to the poster audio recordings at their leisure and join for a live Q&A chat reception style with poster authors and other attendees.
- Lunch Networking Lounge: Our video chat platform allowed users to create avatars and then move around ‘conference halls. As they came into close proximity with other attendees, their video chat was activated allowing them to say hello to old friends and meet new ones.
- Topical Discussion Lounges: These small group chats allowed participants to contribute to discussions focused on students & workforce development and women powering offshore.
THE FUTURE WORKFORCE
The wind industry is eager to cultivate the next generation of clean energy workers and leaders, and for the first time, we offered free access to educational content throughout the event for full-time high school, college and Merchant Marine Academy students. Over 100 students took advantage of the complimentary registration to learn more about the emerging offshore wind industry and the various and abundant job opportunities that will come with its growth. With more than 70 different types of occupations needed to plan, develop, operate, and maintain offshore wind farms, the summit featured self-recorded videos of professionals in the industry, with opportunities to connect. In addition, many sessions were dedicated to workforce and opportunities in the industry, including:
- Powering the Renewable Blue Economy – Stewarding Opportunities and Partnerships
- Post Pandemic Opportunities: Perspective of Women Leaders in Renewable Energy Industry
- State Workforce Development Efforts
- Preparing the Workforce – Industry Education and Training
- Women Powering Wind
- Developing a Sustainable Supply Chain
While we weren’t able to meet in person for the event, that didn’t stop the industry from coming together for an important cause. AWEA selected to support the Boys & Girls Club (BGC) for our community service project this fall. We specifically supported the STEM/STEAM program and BGC’s equity and inclusion efforts. They’ve made it their mission to change the opportunity equation for millions of kids who may not receive the same chance as their peers, sometimes because of their economic status, color of their skin, or other factors that contribute to the cycles of inequity we see in America today.
There is still time to donate and any amount makes a big difference. Click here to make a donation today.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!
Thank you again to our sponsors, speakers, partners, and attendees for helping make the event a success. We look forward to seeing you all again for the AWEA Offshore WINDPOWER 2021 Conference & Exhibition in Boston, October 13 – 15! In the meantime, check out AWEA’s upcoming event schedule.
If you’re looking for additional resources on Offshore Wind, explore supportoffshorewind.org and download the U.S. Offshore Wind Power Economic Impact Assessment. And be sure to visit Clean Power for America to support policies that harness the full potential of renewable energy in the U.S.