February 24, 2023 By Ramona du Houx President Biden put America back on course for offshore wind energy when he set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind with fixed bottoms by 2030. Yet two-thirds of U.S. offshore wind resources are in deepwater areas, meaning floating offshore wind platforms will be need. That’s why last year his administration […]
President Biden put America back on course for offshore wind energy when he set a goal of deploying 30 gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind with fixed bottoms by 2030. Yet two-thirds of U.S. offshore wind resources are in deepwater areas, meaning floating offshore wind platforms will be need. That’s why last year his administration added 15 gigawatts of floating offshore wind energy to their portfolio goal. On the East Coast, where turbines are already rising in shallow waters, a second layer of floating projects far out of sight could capitalize on stronger winds while avoiding opposition from coastal residents who call turbines an eyesore.
On February 23 and 24th at the inaugural Floating Offshore Wind Shot™ Summit, the Departments of Energy, the Interior, Commerce, and Transportation convened federal, state, Tribal, labor, industry, and community leaders to discuss significant progress toward development of floating offshore wind in the United States.
While costs for floating offshore wind projects are expensive now, the Biden administration aims change that by slashing those costs up to 70 percent by 2035 — a goal known as the Floating Offshore Wind Shot which will drive U.S. leadership in floating offshore wind design, development, and manufacturing, and deploy 15 gigawatts by 2035.
California has already started it’s floating offshore wind programs and goals along with Oregon. DOE Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced efforts to jumpstart West Coast offshore wind transmission planning and research and partnerships.
“We see floating offshore wind as one of the clean energy technologies with the most upside potential for deployment in the coming decades,” said Secretary Granholm. “This Energy Earthshot is about so much more than just adding clean energy to the grid, this is about investing in American innovation and bringing supply chains home. It’s about creating jobs from sea to shining sea, and it’s about making America more energy secure and more energy independent.”
The Summit brought together Administration leaders, Governors, Members of Congress, industry and labor leaders, and a wide array of stakeholders working to advance innovation priorities, infrastructure buildout, community engagement, and other key aspects of floating offshore wind deployment.
U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland provided an update on progress toward floating offshore wind deployment. This included the first offshore lease sale off of California, increasing planning efforts for floating offshore wind in Oregon, and ongoing work with Maine, Massachusetts and New Hampshire to bring offshore wind to that region.
“By harnessing the power of offshore wind, the Biden-Harris administration is establishing the United States as a world leader in floating offshore wind,” said Secretary Haaland. “Pursuing this exciting technology will provide communities with cleaner, cheaper, and more reliable energy and create good-paying jobs all while having the least impact on the environment and ocean users.”
President Biden has taken decisive action to jumpstart the American offshore wind industry, ushering in billions of dollars in investments since he took office—including $9.8 billion in new investments in 2022 alone, more than triple the previous year. While advancing the first large-scale projects, and new manufacturing and port activity along the East Coast, the Administration has also supported development of the entire supply chain that stretches across other regions, from steel production in Alabama, Kentucky, and West Virginia to shipbuilding in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.
The potential to combat climate change and improve national security:
Offshore wind has the potential to accelerate America’s transition to 100 percent clean energy, thereby becoming independent from fossil fuels and the instability they represent at the pump and to world security.
“Expanding our offshore wind deployment will diminish our foreign dependence on fossil fuels – on the road to a 100 percent clean energy economy. Energy independence from fossil fuels is the goal we must reach to stop extreme weather events becoming worse and spurring global conflicts and mass migrations. Floating offshore wind is critical to our energy security. Governor Newsom’s floating offshore wind goal for California is 5 GW by 2030 and 25 GW by 2045 – already more than the federal government’s at 15 GW,” said Ramona du Houx, Communications Director Elected Officials to Protect America “We applaud the administration’s work in advancing offshore wind to date. Now it’s time to take bolder action by increasing the floating offshore wind federal goal.”
Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), a non-profit of thousands of elected officials who are working to mitigate the climate crisis, says we need to accelerate America’s clean energy economy to protect our people from oil and gas fluctuations, and the ongoing national security dangers of being dependent on fossil fuels – increasing offshore wind is key in that process.
The Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership grows:
In 2022, President Biden joined East Coast governors to launch the Federal-State Offshore Wind Implementation Partnership, with eleven states working alongside the Administration to maximize the benefits of Atlantic offshore wind development for workers and communities.
Now, following DOI’s recent California offshore wind auction and ahead of the proposed Gulf of Mexico offshore wind auction, both California and Louisiana have joined the Partnership to collaborate with federal agencies and other states on priorities including building an American supply chain and skilled workforce for offshore wind. California Governor Gavin Newsom and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards have been leaders on seizing clean energy opportunities that create good-paying jobs, lower costs for families, and reduce climate pollution..
Governor Janet Mills announced the release of the Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, an 18-month collaborative process involving hundreds of leaders in the environment, energy, and fisheries communities to determine the best way forward with responsible offshore wind development in the state. (PHOTO: the University of Maine’s VolturnUS – the first offshore wind prototype in the Gulf of Maine was successful in generating energy back to the grid and is the design, by Dr. Habib Dagher and his team, that will be deployed)
“Our state has the opportunity to unlock the power of offshore wind to generate clean, homegrown energy, lower energy costs, create good-paying jobs in a growing industry, and protect our environment for future generations,” said Maine Governor Janet Mills. “The Maine Offshore Wind Roadmap, developed collaboratively by a wide range of stakeholders, offers a responsible, forward-looking plan for how we can harness the power of wind far off the coast in the Gulf of Maine to seize the economic and environmental benefits for our state in collaboration with industries, families, and coastal communities that we care so deeply about.”
The floating offshore wind research array in the Gulf of Maine will include 10-12 turbines on semi-submersible floating concrete platforms pioneered by the University of Maine. As the first project of its kind in the United States, the research array will foster cutting-edge research into how floating offshore wind interacts with the marine environment, fishing industry, shipping and navigation routes, and more.
Floating technologies are key to harnessing about two-thirds of U.S. offshore wind energy potential, including along the West Coast, Gulf of Maine, and other deep-water areas.
For Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said floating offshore wind represents the potential to convert the state’s offshore oil and gas infrastructure to cleaner uses. Louisiana has some of the highest per capita carbon emissions in the country, he said, but hope to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. Edwards said state officials want to make Louisiana a hub for hydrogen production using clean energy from floating offshore wind projects.
California believes that floating offshore wind is “both scaleable and necessary,” according to Dave Hochschild, chair of the California Energy Commission. Energy production in California is already 65 percent clean, he said, but additional generation is needed to support growing demand created by the rapid adoption of electric vehicles.
The Department of Energy announced new efforts on transmission planning and research partnerships to support floating offshore wind on the West Coast, at the summit.
Rear Admiral (Ret.) Ann Phillips, Administrator of the Maritime Administration (MARAD) discussed the designation of offshore wind vessels as Vessels of National Interest under the Title XI program, and the surge of interest from industry in this program. She further addressed the $2.25 billion investment in our nations’ ports made possible by the President’s landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law under the Port Infrastructure Development Program (PIDP). PIDP funding can be used to modernize and improve ports to support offshore wind development. Last year, MARAD awarded nearly $100 million to port projects intended to support offshore wind, and they recently announced more than $660 million in PIDP funding is available in 2023 for this program.
“DOT and MARAD are thrilled to be supporting the President’s drive to grow our offshore wind industry by supporting construction of Jones Act-compliant vessels through Title XI, and the development of port infrastructure through PIDP. We are also working to grow the mariner pool to attract the next generation the offshore wind industry’s well-paying, innovative and technically challenging jobs!,” stated Rear Admiral Phillips.
Administrator Richard Spinrad of the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) highlighted the importance of partnerships between the public and private sectors, as well as across federal agencies and between federal, state, tribal, and local governments. Achieving these ambitious floating offshore wind goals in a way that prioritizes energy justice, ocean co-use, and environmental sustainability, and that benefits all Americans means overcoming many challenges that require collaborative solutions.
Senator Markey of Massachusetts discussed how federal and state manufacturing incentives for offshore wind will lower the burden of energy costs for Americans and ensure the transition to a clean economy creates jobs. Sen. Markey ensured the funding in the IRA for offshore wind research and development and wind manufacturing.
Congresswoman Bonamici of Oregon and Congressman Carbajal of California discussed the importance of floating offshore wind in their states’ paths to decarbonization, as well as the opportunities to boost union jobs and economic development in the region and engage with coastal communities. Rep. Carbajal has been instrumental working with the Navy to secure the right areas for offshore wind development.
AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, spoke about the opportunity floating offshore wind represents to create quality union jobs from coast to coast. Growing a strong domestic workforce as well as building out the offshore wind supply chain will be a critical area to watch. These union jobs would offer training for enviromental justice communities. The Justice40 program ensures 40 percent of all new federal funding for climate measures be targeted to help lift up these frontline communities.
“Let’s take this potential and turn it into an American economy that leads the world. Our unions are ready to do it, our workers are ready to do it, and I know this Administration is ready to do it too,” said Shuler.
Council Member Jason Ramos of California’s Blue Lake Rancheria Tribe spoke about the environmental deterioration caused by climate change, and his tribe’s energy plan, developed with help from DOE, to be net-zero by 2030. The tribe has successfully installed micro-grids to supply energy for their needs, and are independent of the national grid.
“We look forward to offshore wind in our region and we want to be included,” said Council Member Ramos. “We think it’s the right path culturally for respect of our ancestors and to the promise of future generations that we leave future generations not burdened with problems but rather with the hope of the prospects of a productive future. A future that contains abundant low-carbon critical energy infrastructure and jobs and education in our disadvantaged communities. We look forward to the investment in human capital, education, job training in this floating offshore wind market.”
The summit also convened leading researchers, entrepreneurs, and wind energy developers, whose work will be crucial to achieving the dramatic cost reductions necessary. Attendees heard about the multitude of current funding opportunities to drive innovation in floating wind energy technology, including turbine and platform design, and transmission.
“We are positioning ourselves not just to catch up and seize the lead, but really to forge the frontier of a new technology,” said Ali Zaidi, the White House’s national climate adviser.
Tax incentives in President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act have improved the economics for investors but many companies have been seeking a clear run of projects before investing in factories and vessels.
European turbine group Siemens Gamesa plans to build the first U.S. offshore wind turbine blade factory in Virginia but the first offshore wind projects will have to source turbines and other major components from Europe. We could be manufacturing them here.
A major issue remains: how to get the wind power from the turbine to the grid. To that end the administration has allocated $100 million from the Inflation Reduction Act to launch a 20-month study on how to build these transmission networks, some of which would need to be more than 65 miles long.