DOE Ditches Another Offshore Wind Demonstration Project

The Department of Energy (DOE) has dropped its support of a 24-MW offshore wind demonstration project proposed by Fishermen’s Energy off the coast of Atlantic City, N.J.

“Under the Energy Department’s award, Fishermen’s Energy must have secured a power offtake agreement by December 31st to be eligible for another round of funding,” a DOE spokesperson told POWER on January 5. “The criteria were not met by that date, so we have initiated the close out process for the project.”

The New Jersey–based company plans to install six 4-MW Siemens turbines in state waters about three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The DOE deemed the project unique because it would have demonstrated the use of a twisted jacket foundation “that is easier to manufacture and install than traditional foundations, helping drive down the cost of energy produced by the offshore wind system.”

However, the project had suffered a long-standing dispute with state officials. In mid-2014, a New Jersey court ordered the state’s Board of Public Utilities to reconsider its rejection of the offshore wind farm.

Though the DOE has allocated more than $200 million to offshore wind research to accelerate offshore wind technology development, the offshore market, and advanced technology demonstration, the U.S. lags woefully behind Europe, which has already installed more than 11 GW of offshore wind power.

On December 12, the Block Island Wind Farm, the first commercial offshore project in the U.S., began commercial operations. Located three miles off the southeastern coast of Rhode Island, Block Island consists of five wind turbines that have a combined capacity of 30 MW.

The DOE had counted on several additional projects to be operating in U.S. waters by 2020. A total of nearly 16 GW have been proposed for development in the U.S., the agency said.

While the DOE had originally selected seven offshore demonstration projects in 2012 that received funding to complete preliminary engineering, design, site evaluation, and planning phases, it culled that list in mid-2014, selecting only three projects to proceed: Fishermen’s Atlantic City Windfarm, Principle Power’s WindFloat Pacific project, and Dominion Virginia Power’s Virginia Beach project.

But in May 2016, it pulled back funding projects spearheaded separately by Dominion Virginia Power and Principle Power, bolstering its support instead for two projects it said demonstrate more progress or potential: Lake Erie Energy Development Corp.’s Icebreaker project and the University of Maine’s New England Aqua Ventus I.

The three projects have each received about $10.7 million in funding from the DOE and were each eligible for up to $40 million in additional funding.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), an agency that manages all wind development in federal water, has held five auctions for wind development in the Atlantic region. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), BOEM has to date issued 11 commercial leases in federal waters, nine of which were purchased through the competitive bid process. BOEM issued the other 2 leases before the first competitive lease sale.

“Cumulatively, since 2013 more than one million acres of land in federal waters have been leased for wind development and have generated more than $16 million in revenue from the lease sales for the federal government,” the EIA said in late December.

 

Sonal Patel, associate editor (@POWERmagazine, @sonalcpatel)