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U.S. Offshore Wind Industry Has Electrifying Future

Offshore wind holds great promise as a source of clean, domestic, renewable energy that can meet the needs of communities along the nation’s coastlines. And — according to the Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, written by a team of researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) — the U.S. offshore wind industry made gale-force gains in 2020 and early 2021. The offshore wind pipeline grew 24% in that time period, with 35,324 megawatts (MW) now in various stages of development.

And that is not all. Increased industry interest, combined with the Biden administration’s goal to deploy 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind power by 2030, may propel the offshore wind energy industry to greater heights in the coming years.

Released on Aug. 30, 2021, the report highlighted that:

  • The U.S. offshore wind pipeline includes two operating projects: the 30-MW Block Island Wind Farm off Rhode Island and the 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind pilot project. The 800-MW Vineyard Wind 1 project near Massachusetts became the first fully approved, commercial, offshore wind energy project in the United States, receiving all permits, an offtake contract to sell the power it generates, and an interconnection agreement to deliver that electricity to the grid.
  • Fifteen projects in the offshore wind energy pipeline have reached the permitting phase, 16 commercial leases in federal waters have gained exclusive site control, and seven wind energy areas can now be leased at the discretion of the federal government. The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which regulates energy development in federal waters, has also designated nine Call Areas — areas being considered for future offshore wind energy development.
  • The Biden administration’s target of installing 30 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030 is the United States’ first national offshore wind energy goal. Alongside this national-level goal, states are aiming to procure at least 39,298 MW of offshore wind capacity by 2040. The U.S. offshore wind energy industry made additional supply chain and infrastructure investments over the past year, like the first U.S.-flagged offshore wind turbine installation vessel, which began construction in Brownsville, Texas, in 2020.
  • Technology trends indicate growing turbine sizes, which is one of the main drivers behind lower offshore wind energy costs. Three leading turbine manufacturers — Siemens Gamesa, Vestas, and General Electric — have announced the development of larger offshore wind turbines ranging from 12 to 15 MW. These manufacturers have reported their intention to make wind turbines at these nameplate ratings available for purchase by 2024 or sooner, and U.S. orders indicate that most projects in the current pipeline will obtain wind turbines from one of these manufacturers.
  • Governments, energy companies, and end users are increasingly looking at offshore wind as a power source to produce green hydrogen, which can be used in other sectors of the economy — like transportation, heating, industry, grid storage — as a zero-emission fuel.

“This report shows that the offshore wind market is on an upward curve, both nationally and globally,” said Walt Musial, an NREL principal engineer and the lead report author. “Maturing technology and falling costs have driven that curve for several years, and today, we’re seeing a continuation of those trends. Here, in the United States, federal and state support are also adding momentum.”

NREL and DOE began working in offshore wind energy research in 2003 to address the growing interest in offshore wind power technology and innovation, both domestically and in Europe. Since then, NREL’s work in offshore wind energy has included:

  • Developing concepts to accelerate technological advancement
  • Working with DOE and BOEM (and previously the Minerals Management Service) to evaluate possible sites and technologies that can be deployed in the United States
  • Working with industry members to create partnerships and relationships that could lead to commercial systems and projects
  • Creating open-source engineering tools and standards for offshore wind turbine designs
  • Developing economic models and analyses that demonstrate potential for cost reduction and lower uncertainty of offshore wind costs
  • Conducting resource assessments that have validated offshore wind power as a potentially major contributor to the electric grid
  • Providing analyses that inform understanding of future offshore wind technologies
  • Designing technical training for BOEM and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement staff
  • Modeling national and regional grid systems to help electric utilities understand the impacts of offshore wind energy when integrated with the electrical grid.

“Looking to the future, we expect offshore wind energy in the United States to expand beyond the North and Mid-Atlantic into the Pacific, Great Lakes, and the Gulf of Mexico,” Musial said. “That expansion means abundant energy at lower costs, job growth, and progress toward decarbonization. NREL will continue to leverage its expertise, world-class facilities, and industry, research, and commercial partnerships to help the United States lead the charge forward.”

The Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition provides detailed information about the U.S. and global offshore wind energy industries to inform policymakers, researchers, and analysts about technology and market trends. The report covers the status of more than 200 globally operating offshore wind projects through Dec. 31, 2020, and provides details and analysis on a broader global pipeline of projects in various stages of development. To deliver the most up-to-date discussion about this evolving industry, the report also provides a deeper assessment of domestic offshore wind energy developments and events through May 31, 2021.

The report is a companion to the Land-Based Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, prepared by DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and the Distributed Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition, prepared by DOE’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. These three reports offer unbiased, independent, public reporting of the current state of the wind energy industry and provide insight into multiyear trends.


Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition: Full Report

Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition: Executive Summary

Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition: Summary Slides

Offshore Wind Market Report: 2021 Edition Data

Article courtesy of NREL.

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