The offshore wind market in the US is taking off and like a lot of things in America, it is going to be big. Very big. It’s probably going to be massive.
At the very least, US offshore wind is going to be huge, said Iberdrola Renewables Offshore’s managing director Jonathan Cole a couple of weeks ago, when Vineyard Wind was selected to develop an 800 MW offshore windfarm off Massachusetts, and Deepwater Wind to develop a 400 MW windfarm off Rhode Island. And boy was he right. It’s as if a dam has broken.
The last week has a seen a spate of developments that have emphasised the incredible rate at which the market in the US is developing.
Offshore wind heavyweights are queuing up to invest in the US market and most are expected to bid for upcoming tenders. Some, such as Vattenfall and Ørsted, plan to bid for multiple projects on the east coast of the US in the coming months. Others (see below) are looking at the floating offshore wind segment on the west coast.
Energy major Shell is said to be examining options and considering bids for projects on the Atlantic coast of the US, and Deepwater Wind, which won the Rhode Island bid only a couple of weeks back, said it believes offshore windfarms in the US will be able to outcompete natural gas pricewise.
“You could not build a thermal gas plant in New England for the price of the wind bids in Massachusetts and Rhode Island,” Deepwater Wind’s chairman Bryan Martin told the US Offshore Wind Conference in Boston. Bloomberg New Energy Finance believes the levelised cost of offshore wind in the US could fall to US$60-70/megawatt hour by the late 2020s.
Then came news that German utility EnBW is expanding into the North American market, forming a joint venture with Trident Winds to develop a project off the coast of California.
Following its recent entry into Taiwan, EnBW has expanded activity to the US, establishing a subsidiary, EnBW North America. Together with Trident Winds, EnBW plans to develop the 650–1,000 MW megawatt Morro Bay offshore wind project.
Together, the companies will work on the development of the first large-scale floating offshore wind project in the region and hope to secure a lease for the site from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM).
The moves came days after Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners in Denmark teamed with Magellan Wind in the US to develop floating offshore wind projects offshore California and in other areas in the US.
Speaking at last week’s offshore wind energy conference in the US, BOEM deputy and currently acting director Walter Cruickshank told delegates “To realise the full potential of offshore wind, we need to transcend the state approach and think on a regional basis.”
But even without such an approach, the employment implications of offshore wind in the US are impressive. Only last week, the state of Maine said involvement in the offshore wind industry could create 2,000 jobs annually, and as University of Delaware Special Initiative on Offshore Wind director Stephanie McClellan put it recently, “tapping into this enormous home-grown energy resource promises to deliver tens of thousands of jobs, market-competitive clean electricity for US consumers and high value for US companies in the supply chain.”