The State of US Offshore Wind
Updated: Sep 29, 2021
The US Department of Energy’s goal is to deploy 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030. According to energy.gov, these new wind projects will support 77,000 jobs and bring investments of more than $12 billion per year. They will also support the maritime industry with new wind turbine installation vessels (WTIVs), support vessels, and potential port upgrades of $500 million. This huge push for more offshore wind means new projects are getting approved and underway at record pace. We’re going to take a look at a list of the upcoming projects, future sites being considered, and what this all means for the energy and maritime industries. First, let’s check out the first offshore wind project completed in the United States, Block Island.
Block Island is a five turbine wind farm in Rhode Island that was completed in 2016. It’s a demonstration project by Deepwater Wind, who was later acquired by Ørsted. About 3.3 nautical miles off the coast of Block Island, it consists of five Alstom Haliade 150 6 MW turbines rated for a total of 30 MW of power. According to Wikipedia, it was considered to be part of a larger project that would extend to Massachusetts, potentially growing to 100 turbines. The larger expansion has yet to materialize, but the Block Island project has become somewhat of a tourist attraction and the successful launch of offshore wind in the United States. Almost 10 million tests were completed in simulations prior to the installation, with the turbines rated to withstand a Category 3 storm and the foundations rated for a 1000-year storm. Initial pricing of the power was 24.4 ¢ USD/kWh, causing some concern over affordability, but in the last five years prices for wind power have dropped substantially, proving Block Island to be a successful pilot project, if expensive. Costs have declined so rapidly, that as of 2020, offshore wind energy is about 8.9 ¢ per kWh, declining by 50% from 2018 to 2020 alone, according to the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
“By Ionna22 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60655658”. Image from Wikipedia.
There is one other pilot project wind farm that is operational off the United States east coast: Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind. It is 25 nautical miles east of Cape Henry, VA and consists of only two Siemens Gamesa SWT-6.0-154 turbines rated at 6 MW each for a total of 12 MW. While not impressive compared to the upcoming projects, it is a second successful pilot that is paving the way for new wind farms, making pilot projects 2 for 2.
Coastal Virginia Offshore Wind (CVOW) is the largest upcoming offshore wind project in the United States, and the extension of the smaller two turbine pilot above. According to Dominion Energy and Wikipedia, Dominion Energy is expected to install up to 180 more turbines in three equal phases of 880 MW each, for a total capacity of 2,640 MW. At peak, it could power 660,000 homes and is expected to remove up to 5 million tons of carbon dioxide each year. It’s expected to create around 900 jobs during construction and 1,100 direct and indirect positions after completion in 2026. According to Dominion Energy, they will be employing 10,000 tons of domestic steel from Alabama and West Virginia to build their own wind turbine installation vessel (WTIV) in Texas. Dominion’s WTIV will be the first Jones Act compliant vessel of its type. CVOW’s planned 2,640 MW is just above Kitty Hawk’s 2,500 MW and more than twice the size of the next largest planned wind farm, making it the current largest planned wind farm in the US. However, like wind turbines themselves, wind farms are also constantly growing in size. Turbines have not yet been selected, which is not a surprise since onshore construction is not expected to start until 2023, with offshore construction starting in 2024. Turbines continue to grow in size as technology advances, and Dominion will want to make the most of the installation. The project will have a life cycle of 13 years from the lease agreement in 2013 to completion in 2026.
Height comparison of the two pilot project turbines and the planned commercial project turbines compared to the Washington Monument. Image from Dominion Energy.
Kitty Hawk Wind is the second largest project at 2,500 MW potential power. The Virginia Clean Economy Act aims to transition the state to 100% carbon-free energy by 2050. Virginia has set goals of 2,800 MW of offshore wind by 2030 and 8,000 MW by 2040 to power about 2.3 million homes, according to Kitty Hawk Offshore. When completed, Kitty Hawk Wind is expected to power about 700,000 homes. They expect 800 jobs during construction and about 900 during operation. Avangrid Renewables has not chosen turbines, but expects phase one of the project to be about 800 MW, indicating three phases for construction.
Ocean Wind is the third largest planned offshore wind farm in the US at 1,100 MW and has an expected completion date of 2024. It’s about 15 miles from Atlantic City, New Jersey, Ocean Wind is in development by Ørsted US Offshore Wind in conjunction with Public Service Enterprise Group (PSE&G), according to Wikipedia. Annual power generation should be enough to power at least half a million homes. The project plan calls for the most powerful wind turbines currently available, the GE Haliade X 12 MW turbine (Ocean Wind). The project will be a big step toward New Jersey’s goal of 7,500 MW of offshore wind power by 2035, which should be enough to power 3.2 million homes.
Empire Wind is about 14 miles south of Jones Beach, Long Island, in New York. It is expected to have 816 MW of power for about 500,000 homes. Although turbines have not been chosen, Equinor states that turbines will be in the 10-15 MW range. This project is planned to go along with Empire Wind 2 with 1,260 MW and Beacon Wind 1 with 1,230 MW, for a total of 3.3 GW of offshore power for New York, according to Equinor. Equinor is 50/50 partners with bp on Empire Wind and Beacon Wind.
Offshore wind turbine. Image from Equinor.
Overview of other planned offshore wind projects:
Revolution Wind: 700 MW, Rhode Island and Connecticut, expected completion 2023.
Vineyard Wind: 800 MW, Massachusetts, expected completion 2023.
MarWin: 248 MW, Maryland, expected completion 2023.
South Fork: 130 MW, Rhode Island and New York, expected completion 2023.
Skipjack: 120 MW, Maryland and Delaware, expected completion 2023.
Sunrise Wind: 880 MW, New York, expected completion 2024.
Park City Wind: 804 MW, Connecticut, expected completion 2025.
According to multiple sources, there are at least a dozen offshore wind farms planned for the US coast. If you’d like to see more details, Wikipedia has a list of these projects. Ørsted also has a list of ten of their projects: two projects they have completed (covered above), six awarded, and two in development. Offshore wind projects require a lot of effort before construction begins with leasing agreements, regulatory requirements, and minimizing the impact on the environment and fisheries. Many of the timelines for the projects covered here last 5-10 years before construction even begins. With some projects now underway, expect to see projects like Vineyard Wind, Revolution Wind, MarWin, South Fork, and Skipjack completing construction in 2023, with others to follow in 2024-2026, and more in the pipeline.
The chart above shows how much wind installations have grown over the last couple of years. Offshore wind will increase these numbers significantly. Below is a map from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory showing the average annual offshore wind speed at 90 meters around the coast of the continental United States. Most of the west coast, especially northern California are particularly well-suited to wind projects and the Gulf of Mexico near Texas is also being examined for offshore wind installations. Even the Great Lakes area around Michigan and Wisconsin could see more offshore turbines.
United States average annual wind speed off the coast of the United States at 90 meters. Image from WIND Exchange.
So what does all this mean for the energy and maritime industries? In short, opportunity. As companies and shareholders look for renewable power generation options, energy and maritime are well positioned to capitalize on the growing green energy market. Turbine installations, maintenance, and cable laying are all significant parts of offshore wind. As the turbines are pushed further offshore for more reliable power generation from stronger, steadier winds, more space, and new technology like floating turbines, this sector has a lot of room to grow. As floating wind matures, we could even see floating turbines closer to shore with the benefits of no seabed monopiles, portability, and wave power generation. Offshore wind provides an opportunity for maritime and energy to go after a new market and get green in the process.