When will the US get 1 GW of offshore wind on the grid?

Source: By Iulia Gheorghiu, Utility Dive • Posted: Tuesday, March 31, 2020

  • Offshore wind in the U.S. will exceed 1 GW of capacity by 2027, according to a report released last week by Navigant Research, based on expectations of which projects will come online in which year.
  • The report calculated over 17 GW of offshore state and federal leases for wind production. However, the owners of those leases have only announced first phase plans for 1,870 MW of capacity, leaving much of the projects in early stages with significant room to grow, according to senior research analyst Jesse Broehl.
  • The Business Network for Offshore Wind (BNOW) believes it is possible to hit 1 GW by 2023-24, according to CEO Liz Burdock. While the economy has taken a hit from the coronavirus pandemic, she said the offshore wind industry can continue growing as “the supply chain from Asia and Europe regains speed this summer, and the administration starts clearing” plans of construction.

Dive Insight:

BNOW is concerned with the economic hardship imposed on secondary and tertiary U.S. suppliers due to the global spread of COVID-19.

Offshore wind has been touted by many eastern states and governors as an opportunity to create jobs. Analysts see the growing momentum of projects as a way to further lower costs by creating a local supply chain, which could be jeopardized by a long-term shutdown and recession.

“The federal government must act now — today, not in December — and approve project construction and operation plans,” a recent BNOW report said. Approving any of the seven projects before BOEM currently would allow small businesses to get to work “following the containment of the coronavirus,” but approval of the projects next year “may be too late to keep them solvent.”

The prospects for maintaining momentum in the industry falls largely to the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM). The industry cannot hit the 1 GW milestone without project approvals by BOEM, which is revising processes to analyze federal permit applications in the context of “greater build out of offshore wind capacity,” according to its website.

“It is heavily dependent on the project approval success,” Burdock told Utility Dive.

Currently, seven projects are awaiting determinations from BOEM on their construction operation plans in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Maryland, with more to be added soon, a BNOW spokesperson told Utility Dive.

To date, only one project has received BOEM approval for development in federal waters, a 12 MW pilot by Dominion Energy and Ørsted in Virginia. The two-turbine project is a stepping stone to a commercial-scale 2.6 GW project the companies say could begin installation as soon as 2024, and gave the developers experience with the permitting process.

In the U.S., developers have the capacity to develop 16.9 GW of offshore wind in federal U.S. lease areas, Broehl told Utility Dive, but much of that is in early stages. The Navigant report did not address any impacts of coronavirus on offshore wind, he said.

Although Massachusetts has legislation in place to require utilities to purchase 1.6 GW of wind power by 2026, and several other projects are in early development stages, Navigant expects to first large offshore wind projects in the U.S. (exceeding 200 MW) will come online in 2022 or later, and the first projects with 400 MW or more capacity are likely to be built by 2024-2025. By 2027, capacity would exceed 1 GW, Broehl said.

The federal leasing activities along with the involvement from Eastern states and utilities “virtually guarantees that a large offshore wind market is going to take off in the U.S.,” Broehl said.