The Biden administration on March 29 laid out a spate of measures to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind in the U.S. by 2030, an ambitious target that will require a vast scale-up in investment and build-out of the still latent power subsector. But if achieved, the target would unlock “a pathway” to 110 GW by 2050, administration officials said.
The bold goal unveiled jointly by the Departments of Interior, Energy, Commerce, and Transportation under a “whole-of-government approach” on Monday is the first concrete action following President Joe Biden’s Jan. 27 “Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad,” which offered a specific goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030.
To date, only two offshore wind turbines—at Dominion’s 12-MW Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) pilot project off the coast of Virginia Beach—are currently operational in federal waters in the U.S. (The nation’s first offshore wind farm in federal waters, the 30-MW, five turbine Block Island Wind Farm in Rhode Island, went offline last year following challenges with submarine cables, but a restart is anticipated around May 2021.) According to the Department of Energy (DOE), data on the technical resource potential suggests more than 2,000 GW could be accessed in state and federal waters along the coasts of the U.S. and in the Great Lakes.
For now, the 30-GW-by-2030 target will be shared by the Departments of Energy, Interior, and Commerce, the White House said on Monday. The administration’s approach is mostly focused on job creation, infrastructure development to strengthen the domestic supply chain, and research and development. “Meeting this target will trigger more than $12 billion per year in capital investment in projects on both U.S. coasts, create tens of thousands of good-paying, union jobs, with more than 44,000 workers employed in offshore wind by 2030 and nearly 33,000 additional jobs in communities supported by offshore wind activity,” it said.
DOI Identifies New York Bight Wind Energy Areas, Commits to Make Headway on Project Reviews
On Monday, the Department of Interior (DOI), the agency that houses the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), announced a “new priority Wind Energy Area” in the New York Bight, an area of shallow waters between Long Island and the New Jersey coast. BOEM, which has so far issued 16 active commercial wind energy leases (all off the Atlantic coast), said it identified nearly 800,000 acres as Wind Energy Areas (WEAs) in the New York Bight.
“The agency will now initiate an environmental review, with public input, on these areas in federal waters for potential offshore wind leasing,” it said. The agency then plans to publish a Proposed Sale Notice, followed by a formal public comment period and a lease sale in late 2021 or early 2022, it said.
Under the new 30-GW target, however, the DOI also committed to complete review of at least 16 construction and operations plans (COPs) by 2025 for several offshore wind farms, which represent about 19 GW in total.
The development suggests the agency will fast track its review. Dominion in December filed a COP with BOEM to build a 2.6-GW commercial project in an adjacent commercial lease area offshore Virginia, but company documents show Dominion expects BOEM’s review—which is required before turbine installation can begin—could take up to two years.
BOEM, notably, in early March completed an environmental analysis for the 800-MW Vineyard Wind project offshore Massachusetts—a project widely expected to be the first commercial large-scale offshore wind project in the U.S. In January, it also issued a draft environmental impact statement (EIS) for the South Fork Wind Farm southeast of Block Island, Rhode Island. And on Monday, it also issued a Notice of Intent to prepare an EIS for the COP submitted by the 1.1-GW Ocean Wind facility offshore New Jersey. Later this year, the agency said it anticipates initiating environmental reviews “for up to ten additional projects.”
Infrastructure Development a Priority
Along with opening up new siting opportunities, the administration wants to catalyze “significant supply chain benefits.” These include new port upgrade investments totaling more than $500 million; one to two new U.S. factories for each major windfarm component, including wind turbine nacelles, blades, towers, foundations, and subsea cables; and an additional cumulative demand of more than 7 million tons of steel—“equivalent to 4 years of output for a typical U.S. steel mill,” the White House said. The target could also spur construction of four to six specialized turbine installation vessels in U.S. shipyards, each representing an investment between $250 million and $500 million, it said.
The Department of Transportation, meanwhile, on Monday announced a Notice of Funding Opportunity for port authorities and other applicants to apply for $230 million for port and intermodal infrastructure-related projects through the Port Infrastructure Development Program. “Port Infrastructure Development Grants support projects that strengthen and modernize port infrastructure, and can support shore-side wind energy projects, such as storage areas, laydown areas, and docking of wind energy vessels to load and move items to offshore wind farms,” the White House said.
DOE Readying $3B in Loan Guarantees
In remarks on Monday, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm said the DOE’s national laboratories “crunched the numbers” to identify the 2030 target, “taking care to strike the right balance between ambition and feasibility.” The DOE will partner with developers, manufacturers, labor, and the states “to make sure we’re all doing what’s necessary to hit these goals—and maybe even surpass them,” she said.
To begin with, the DOE will facilitate access for $3 billion in funding through the agency’s Loan Programs Office’s (LPO’s) Title XVII Innovative Energy Loan Guarantee Program, she said. On Monday, notably, the DOE also announced $8 million for 15 new offshore wind research and development (R&D) projects through the 2018-established National Offshore Wind R&D Consortium, which was created by the DOE and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “The selections include projects to develop innovative support structures, support U.S.-based supply chains needed for wind turbine production, advance electrical systems innovation, and present solutions for impacts on wildlife and radar,” the agency said.
Federal funding under the research consortium will go to four projects that are developing innovative support structures, including foundations and moorings for “very large” fixed-bottom and floating offshore wind turbines to achieve economies of scale. Also included are another three projects that will resolve supply chain and installation challenges, “including spiral welded towers, a self-positioning blade installation tool, and unmanned aerial devices for inspections,” the DOE said. Five projects will also support innovations in grid interconnection and transmission, while three others will “mitigate use conflicts, including wildlife monitoring and radar interference.” The 15 projects bring the consortium’s total funding portfolio to $28 million for 40 projects.
Data-Sharing and Offshore Wind Impacts
Finally, on Monday, the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) signed a memorandum of agreement with Danish offshore wind developer Ørsted to share “physical and biological data in Ørsted-leased waters subject to U.S. jurisdiction.” The agreement is the “first of its kind between an offshore wind developer and NOAA, and paves the way for future data-sharing agreements that NOAA expects to enter into with other developers,” NOAA said.
NOAA, in partnership with the DOE also released a request for research proposals to support more than $1 million in grant funding “to improve understanding of offshore renewable energy for the benefit of a diversity of stakeholders, including fishing and coastal communities.” Grant funding will support “objective community-based research” in the Northeast to shed more light on how offshore renewable energy affects the ocean and local communities and economies as well as opportunities to optimize ocean co-use, the agency said.