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A Site Selection Web Exclusive, September 2016
WEB Exclusive story

New US Offshore Wind Strategy Moves From Testing the Waters to Diving Right In

Gulf Island Fabricators constructed offshore wind turbine jackets for Deepwater Wind’s Block Island Wind Project off Rhode Island.
Photo by Sid Falk courtesy of BOEM

by Adam Bruns

On September 9 in Boston, following the recent completion of construction on the first US offshore commercial wind farm off of Block Island, Rhode Island, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz and US Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell announced the publication of a collaborative strategic plan to continue accelerating the development of offshore wind energy in the United States.

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, said the DOE.

The announcement of the report followed a tour of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center’s Wind Technology Testing Center (WTTC), located in the Charlestown neighborhood of Boston, and designed to help the wind industry test the next generation of land-based and offshore wind turbine blades. The WTTC opened in 2011 and was funded by the Department of Energy (DOE) under the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act.

Block Island Ribbon Cutting
Officials in July 2015 celebrate construction of the nation's first offshore wind farm. From left to right: Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI); Senator Jack Reed (D-RI); DOI Secretary Sally Jewell; Bryan Martin of D.E. Shaw and founder of Deepwater Wind; Jeff Grybowski, CEO of Deepwater Wind; Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI); RI Governor Gina Raimondo; Grover Fugate, Executive Director for the RI Coastal Resources Management Council; and BOEM Director Abigail Ross Hopper.
Photo by Deepwater Wind courtesy of BOEM

Since 2011, DOE 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 Department of the Interior 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.

The new 30-MW wind farm on Block Island was the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management's (BOEM) 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.

"Across the country, 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 across our nation’s coastal states," said the DOE.

“This Administration has made significant investments in clean energy technologies, supporting a diversified energy portfolio to help meet our Climate Action Plan goal of permitting 20,000 MW of renewable electricity generation on public lands and waters by 2020,” said Secretary Jewell. “Thanks to involvement by partners at all levels of government, community stakeholders, tribes and the public, we've been able to stand up the first federal offshore wind energy program in the history of the US, and we are confident the strategy we're outlining today will chart a course for additional investment in clean energy technologies that can help power America's future.”

Virtual Flow Simulator
Sandia National Laboratory worked with the University of Minnesota (UMN) St. Anthony Falls Laboratory to document and prepare UMN’s offshore version of the Virtual Wind Simulator, which will help with siting of future offshore wind farms.
Image courtesy of Sandia

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

  1. Reducing technical costs and risks. DOI proposes the 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Improving the market conditions for investment in offshore wind energy. Studies are needed 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.

Not all the offshore wind activity is coastal. Four days after the release of the strategy document, an advanced modeling tool funded by the Energy Department became available to help offshore wind plant developers, wind turbine original equipment manufacturers and researchers design offshore turbine and foundation systems. Created by the University of Minnesota, the Virtual Flow Simulator (VFS-Wind) is a downloadable, open-source software tool developed to help users optimize the amount of power produced by offshore wind plants.

“VFS-Wind represents the state of the art for offshore wind plant simulation,” said Nick Johnson, Energy Department Technology Manager: Wind, Water, and Power Division. “This innovative tool pushes our capabilities for high-performance computing to provide detailed information about the dynamics between the turbine, the sea, and the atmosphere — and will allow for advancements in wind turbine and plant design.”

According to the DOE, high-fidelity computing like VFS-Wind "aligns with the Energy Department’s Atmosphere to Electrons initiative, which targets significant reductions in the cost of wind energy through an improved understanding of the complex physics governing power production by wind plants. The goal of Atmosphere to Electrons is to ensure future wind plants are sited, built, and operated in a way that produces the most cost-effective, usable electric power.

DOE reports 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.

BOEM Jennifer Miller
Jennifer Miller, BOEM, discusses potential impacts from offshore wind lease issuance activities at an event held in June.
Posted courtesy of BOEM-OPA

Adam Bruns
Editor in Chief of Site Selection magazine

Adam Bruns

Adam Bruns is editor in chief and head of publications for Site Selection, and before that has served as managing editor beginning in February 2002. In the course of reporting hundreds of stories for Site Selection, Adam has visited companies and communities around the globe. A St. Louis native who grew up in the Kansas City suburbs, Adam is a 1986 alumnus of Knox College, and resided in Chicago; Midcoast Maine; Savannah, Georgia; and Lexington, Kentucky, before settling in the Greater Atlanta community of Peachtree Corners, where he lives with his wife and daughter.


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