Government Unveils Plan for 86 Gigawatts of U.S. Offshore Wind

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By Rebecca Kern

Sept. 9 — A new national strategy issued by the Energy and Interior departments would help enable the development of 86 gigawatts of offshore wind power in the U.S. by 2050 and would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

The strategy discusses the potential for offshore wind farms off the U.S. coastline, which the government says could produce long-term, fixed-cost energy, reduce electricity prices and improve energy security.

The agencies released the report Sept. 9 following a tour of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Test Center in Boston by Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. The testing center, funded by the DOE, is designed to help the wind industry test next generation land-based and offshore wind turbines.

“Today’s collaborative strategic plan is part of a long-term commitment to support innovation that enables widespread offshore wind deployment and shows how offshore wind will benefit our country with new jobs, less pollution, and a more diversified electricity mix,” Moniz said in a joint agency statement.

The American Wind Energy Association praised the strategy. “We look forward to continued engagement with these agencies to further reduce the cost of offshore wind and streamline permitting so that we can get these projects in the water as soon as possible,” Nancy Sopko, AWEA’s manager of advocacy and federal legislative affairs, said in a Sept. 9 statement.

The U.S. offshore wind industry has faced challenges getting started. The first commercial offshore wind farm, Deepwater Wind off Block Island, R.I., was completed this summer at a cost of more than $1 billion. It is scheduled to begin operations by the end of the year. The wind farm will provide enough electricity to power 17,000 homes in New England.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has approved 11 active commercial offshore wind leases along the Atlantic Coast. Deepwater Wind won the first offshore wind lease in 2013.

Goal of Reducing Costs

The strategy identifies key challenges facing the industry and lays out 30 action items the two agencies plan to accomplish over the next five years to address them.

One of the biggest challenges is to reduce the cost of offshore wind. The Energy Department aims to lower the levelized cost of energy through technological advances to compete with the costs of other electricity sources.

The report said the costs can be reduced through improvements in three areas: by gaining a better understanding meteorological, ocean and seafloor conditions to reduce financial coasts; increasing turbine size while optimizing wind plant sizes to reduce capital costs; and reducing or eliminating the need for specialized assets and utilizing existing infrastructure, to lower capital and operating costs.

Reducing Regulatory Burdens

Meanwhile, the Interior Department said it would work to improve its regulatory program to ensure that the oversight processes are adaptable, avoid unnecessary burdens and provide certainty to the community and stakeholders that are regulated.

The agency plans to make more predictable review time lines during the early stage of the offshore wind industry’s development. It also will work to collect more data to verify and validate offshore wind’s impact on wildlife and on the commercial and recreational fishing industries.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebecca Kern in Washington at rKern@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Pearl at lpearl@bna.com

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