US Moves to Expand Offshore Wind Energy

US Moves to Expand Offshore Wind Energy

The US government has announced a series of actions that are intended to develop new floating offshore wind platforms to help the country lead on offshore wind.

Currently, the US’ offshore wind installations are secured directly to the sea floor in shallow waters, mainly in the east coast and the Gulf of Mexico. However, the number of areas suitable for fixed installations cover only around a third of the US coast. Other areas, predominantly on the west coast, see the ocean shelf drop off steeply for fixed platforms. To generate wind energy in those areas would require floating platforms.

Globally, only 0.1 GW of floating offshore wind has been deployed to date, compared with over 50 GW of fixed-bottom offshore wind. The actions announced by the Biden administration include -

  • Lower Costs by 70 Percent: An Energy Earthshot program will support the new Floating Offshore Wind Shot, which will accelerate breakthroughs across engineering, manufacturing, and other innovation areas. The Floating Offshore Wind Shot will aim to reduce the costs of floating technologies by more than 70% by 2035, to $45 per megawatt-hour.

  • 15 GW by 2035: The Administration will advance lease areas in deep waters in order to deploy 15 GW of floating offshore wind capacity by 2035.

  • Research & Development Investment: The Administration launched a new prize competition for floating offshore wind platform technologies; initiatives funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to develop modelling tools for project design and to analyze port needs; and other funding for research, development, and demonstration efforts.

The Floating Offshore Wind Shot will be led by the Departments of Energy (DOE), Interior (DOI), Commerce, and Transportation. DOE and the National Science Foundation will also collaborate on research and workforce development. Agencies will also collaborate to develop the robust domestic supply chain and transmission infrastructure needed to accelerate floating as well as fixed-bottom offshore wind.

The DOI also announced a new goal to deploy 15 GW of installed floating offshore wind capacity by 2035. This builds on the Administration’s goal to deploy 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. DOI’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) will advance lease areas in deep waters for floating technology, starting with a lease auction off the coast of California by the end of 2022.

To support these new goals on floating offshore wind, DOE announced nearly $50 million—including support from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law—for research, development, and demonstration funding. These include a $3 million project funded by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to develop a set of modelling tools to help industry and researchers design commercial-scale floating offshore wind farm arrays, and $31 million in funding for phase 2 of the Aerodynamic Turbines, Lighter and Afloat, with Nautical Technologies and Integrated Servo-control (ATLANTIS) program. The ATLANTIS program focuses on novel forms of systems engineering for floating offshore wind systems to drive down costs. This second phase of the ATLANTIS program will focus on experimental testing in ocean, lake, and tank and tunnel environments to further develop new technology for floating offshore wind turbines.