US Speeds Up Offshore Wind Development

By Renewable Energy Focus staff

The interagency plan on offshore wind energy, National Offshore Wind Strategy: Creating an Offshore Wind Industry in the United States, focuses on overcoming three key challenges:

  1. The relatively high cost of offshore wind power;
  2. Technical challenges surrounding installation, operations and grid interconnection; and
  3. The lack of site data and experience with project permitting processes.

US$50.5m Funding

The three solicitations totaling US$50.5m over five years announced by Energy Secretary Steven Chu will focus on projects developing breakthrough offshore wind energy technology and to reduce deployment barriers.

The Three Solicitation Areas:

Technology Deployment (up to US$25m over five years):

Funding will support the development of wind turbine design tools and hardware to provide the foundation for a cost-competitive and world-class offshore wind industry in the US. Activities will include the development of open-source computational tools, system-optimized offshore wind farm concept studies, and coupled offshore wind turbine rotor and control systems to optimize systems.

Removing Market Barriers (up to US$18m over three years):

DoE will support baseline studies and targeted environmental research to characterize key industry sectors and factors limiting offshore wind deployment. Activities will include offshore wind market and economic and analysis, environmental risk reduction, manufacturing and supply chain development, transmission planning and interconnection strategies, optimized infrastructure and operations, and wind resource characterization.

Next-Generation Drivetrain (up to US$7.5m over 3 years):

Funding will support the development and refinement of next-generation designs for offshore wind turbine drivetrains.

Wind Energy Areas

“The mid-Atlantic Wind Energy Areas are a key part of our ‘Smart from the Start’ program for expediting appropriate commercial-scale wind energy development in America’s waters,” says Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

“Through the Strategic Work Plan, the United States in synchronizing new research and development initiatives with more efficient, forward-thinking planning so that we can help quickly stand up an American offshore wind industry.”

The areas identified are on the Outer Continental Shelf offshore Delaware (122 square nautical miles (nmi2)), Maryland (207 nmi2), New Jersey (417 nmi2), and Virginia (165 nmi2). The areas will receive early environmental reviews to help lessen the time required for review, leasing and approval of offshore wind turbine facilities.

DoI plans to identify Wind Energy Areas off of North Atlantic states in March, including Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and the Department will launch additional NEPA environmental reviews for those areas.

A similar process for the South Atlantic region, namely North Carolina, will take place this spring.

If no significant impacts are identified, the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE) could offer offshore wind farm leases in the Mid-Atlantic areas as early as the end of 2011 or early 2012.

10 GW by 2020

Under the National Offshore Wind Strategy, DoE aims for 10 GW of offshore capacity installed by 2020, and 54 GW by 2030 in Federal and state offshore areas, including along the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts, as well as in the Great Lakes and Hawaiian waters.