Offshore opportunities

    Figure 1: Scheduled and age-based retirements and load growth create opportunity for new offshore wind generation in coastal regions. Image: U.S. Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory (

    In September, U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced publication of a collaborative strategic plan to continue accelerating development of offshore wind energy in the United States. According to the Department of Energy (DOE), National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States, could help enable 86 gigawatts of offshore wind in the United States by 2050. The strategy details the current state of offshore wind in the United States, presents the actions and innovations needed to reduce deployment costs and timelines, and provides a roadmap to support the growth and success of the industry.

    The strategy was published just weeks after construction was completed on America’s first offshore commercial wind farm off of Block Island, R.I. The new 30-MW wind farm was the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM’s) first right-of-way grant and is expected to start operating by the end of 2016. It will generate enough electricity to power 17,000 homes in New England. Coastal states like Massachusetts, which just passed an energy bill that requires utilities to get 1,600 MW of their power from offshore wind by the summer of 2027, are accelerating the development of offshore wind.

    According to the strategy report, almost 80 percent of U.S. electricity demand is located in coastal states and many legacy fossil fuel, nuclear, and renewable generators are set to retire because of age, cost, or as part of the move toward lower-carbon sources of electricity (see Figure 1).

    The National Offshore Wind Strategy identifies key challenges facing the industry and more than 30 specific actions that DOE and the Department of Interior (DOI) can take over the next five years to address those challenges. These actions fall into three strategic areas:

    Reducing technical costs and risks — DOI proposes joint development of standard data collection guidelines to foster predictability and inform safe project development and DOE will work to increase annual energy production and reliability of offshore wind plants.

    Supporting effective stewardship — DOI commits to numerous actions to ensure that the regulatory process is predictable, transparent, efficient, and informed by lessons learned from regulators in other countries. Additionally, as the first generation of installed projects come online, DOI and DOE will collect field data on parts of offshore development, including impacts on marine life and turbine radar interference, in order to support future offshore wind siting and plan reviews.

    Improving market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy — Studies are needed to help quantify the broad grid integration impacts of adding significant amounts of offshore wind energy to the power system. Such information could significantly benefit the offshore wind community by informing state policies critical to supporting development.

    The current strategy builds on DOE’s and DOI’s first joint offshore wind strategy, published in 2011. Since then, the Energy Department has allocated nearly $200 million to support three offshore wind demonstration projects — led by the University of Maine, New Jersey’s Fishermen’s Energy, and Ohio’s Lake Erie Energy Development Corporation — and research and development investments in technologies that specifically address the opportunities and challenges across U.S. waters. Additionally, since 2010, the DOI has issued 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development, nine of which generated approximately $16 million through competitive lease sales and covered more than 1 million acres of federal waters.

    DOE has found that developing 86,000 MW of these offshore wind energy resources by 2050 would support 160,000 jobs, reduce power sector water consumption by 5 percent, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 1.8 percent.

    The full report, National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States, is available online at

    Information provided by the U.S. Department of Energy (