US releases new offshore wind strategy

Monday, September 12, 2016

U.S. executive branch agencies have released an updated report presenting a national strategy to facilitate the domestic development of offshore wind energy.  According to the administration, the strategy could enable 86 gigawatts of U.S. offshore wind by 2050.

The new strategy document, "National Offshore Wind Strategy: Facilitating the Development of the Offshore Wind Industry in the United States", was prepared by the U.S. Department of Energy's Wind Energy Technologies Office and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. It builds on previous efforts, including the first national strategy for offshore wind released in 2011.

Consistent with previous Obama administration approaches, the revised U.S. offshore wind strategy rests on the premise that offshore wind energy can provide significant economic and environmental benefits.  Estimates suggest the nation's total offshore wind energy technical potential is roughly twice as large as our demand for electricity, and almost 80% of U.S. electricity demand is located in coastal states.  Offshore wind provides a low-carbon, fuel-free energy resource; if projects can produce power at low, long-term fixed costs, they can provide a hedge against fossil fuel volatility.

The new U.S. offshore wind strategy is designed to realize these benefits by overcoming challenges in three strategic themes: reducing costs and risks, supporting effective stewardship of U.S waters, and improving market conditions for offshore wind investment:

First, to be competitive in electricity markets, offshore wind costs and U.S.-specific technology risks need to be reduced. Second, environmental and regulatory uncertainties need to be addressed to reduce permitting risks and ensure effective stewardship of the OCS. Third, to increase understanding of the benefits of offshore wind to support near-term deployment, the full spectrum of the electricity system and other economic, social, and environmental costs and benefits of offshore wind need to be quantified and communicated to policymakers and stakeholders.
The report further describes seven action areas, and 34 specific actions, that the Energy and Interior Departments can take to support offshore wind development.

As noted in the report's introductory message, "There has never been a more exciting time for offshore wind in the United States."  States and some utilities are increasingly interested in procuring offshore wind energy.  In recent years, BOEM has awarded 11 commercial leases for offshore wind development that could support a total of 14.6 gigawatts of capacity.  Earlier this summer, Deepwater Wind completed construction of its 30-megawatt Block Island wind project, the nation's first offshore commercial wind farm.  That project is expected to enter commercial operation later this year.

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