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US on the cusp of commercial scale offshore wind development

Thu 04 May 2017

US on the cusp of commercial scale offshore wind development
MHI Vestas Offshore Wind's Tetsushi Mizuno believes the New England coastline could become a game-changer for energy generation and provide opportunities aplenty for its turbines

The Atlantic coast of the US is expected to see the country’s first commercial-scale offshore wind development efforts, with several states planning projects

 

MHI Vestas Offshore Wind’s co-chief executive Tetsushi Mizuno had some interesting things to say about the US offshore wind market in an opinion piece he wrote for Forbes magazine recently. He noted that the US power grid will continue to be a combination of fossil fuels and renewables and that offshore windfarms have been generating power in Europe since the early 1990s but have only recently taken root in the US with the launch of a project near Block Island, Massachusetts, in 2016, with more planned off the east and west coasts.

“As the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, Vestas already has a significant footprint in the onshore wind market in the US,” he said. “We hope that, within a couple of years, we will see offshore wind projects come to fruition in the US with MHI Vestas turbines as the preferred technology.

“While China leads all nations in total wind capacity, Denmark rules on a per capita basis, followed by Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Germany and Ireland. Wind is growing, in part, because it now has all the same robustness as a traditional power plant. Additionally, offshore wind power provides ownership to energy resources for countries that don’t have access to traditional energy. Compared to onshore wind, offshore tends to be more stable, consistent and predictable.”

As he noted, in the latest round of European auctions, the cost of offshore wind dropped precipitously, partly as a result of clear volume targets and economies of scale across the supply chain. “With the right policy and support, the US can significantly lessen the time it takes to reach these goals,” said Mr Mizuno. “Opponents typically use cost as their main argument against wind, but the fact remains that the numbers are being reduced – drastically. Achieving economies of scale and communicating those achievements is very important for the industry.

“The New England coastline could very well become a game-changer for energy generation. We are predicting initial movement in America coming in Massachusetts, with 400 megawatts (MW) being developed this year alone, with New York as another growth area. Regionally, there is significant untapped potential stretching from Maine to Maryland.”

“For offshore wind to succeed in the US, there needs to be bipartisan support and the necessary support structures in place for the market to develop properly,” he concluded. “The future of energy may just depend upon it.”

Recent weeks have seen a number of important developments on the east and west coasts of the US, with Avangrid Renewables, an Iberdrola company, winning the 1.5 gigawatt (GW) Kitty Hawk offshore wind lease auction off the coast of Carolina, a lease for which other European-led industry companies such as Statoil, Wind Future and WPD Offshore Alpha also competed.US secretary of the interior Ryan Zinke and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) acting director Walter Cruickshank said the wind energy area of 122,405 acres (49,500 hectares) offshore Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was won by Avangrid with a bid of US$9,066,650.

“The success of this lease sale reflects the continued interest of coastal communities to develop their offshore energy resources,” said secretary Zinke. “Renewable energy, like offshore wind, is one tool in the ‘all of the above’ energy toolbox that will help power America with domestic energy, securing energy independence and bolstering the economy. This is a big win for collaborative efforts with state, local and private sector partners.”

BOEM has been working with the North Carolina Renewable Energy Task Force since 2010 to identify an area of sufficient size for offshore wind development. Using the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s estimates of 3 MW per square kilometre, the lease area has a potential generating capacity of 1,486 MW. The actual size of the wind energy project will be determined by the developer.

BOEM also recently held a ‘listening session’ to help inform future efforts relating to the next round of Atlantic offshore wind planning and leasing in the US. During the meeting, BOEM personnel provided an overview of a preliminary framework to help determine where future renewable energy leasing areas may be considered on the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf. A similar meeting took place in California in April in order to enable BOEM to share information on planning activity for possible offshore wind development along the coast of the state.