An Update on the National Offshore Wind Strategy

December 17, 2012

Off the shores of the United States and the Great Lakes is a power source with four times the energy potential of the entire U.S. electric power system: the wind.

Offshore winds blow stronger and more uniformly than on land, resulting in greater potential to generate energy. The development of the United States’ plentiful offshore wind resources could deliver large amounts of clean energy close to cities and towns ready to use it.

That’s why the Energy Department has been investing in the emerging industry of offshore wind energy. Guided by the Energy Department’s national offshore wind strategy, we’ve been supporting innovations that will reduce the costs and speed up the deployment of American-made offshore wind energy technologies designed for U.S. coastal conditions and provide valuable opportunities to test these innovations in real offshore environments.

And over these past months, there’s been a lot to talk about.

  • Last Wednesday, the Department announced awards of up to $168 million in funding for seven offshore wind advanced technology demonstration projects. These projects are the first of their kind in America, intended to spur installation and validation of innovative offshore wind systems in U.S. waters, and reduce uncertainties for developers of U.S. offshore wind projects.
  • That same day, we released two Department-funded reports on the potential of the U.S. offshore wind industry. The first report, U.S. Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis, looks at growth scenarios for the industry, which could potentially support up to 200,000 manufacturing, construction, operation and supply chain jobs and drive more than $70 billion in annual investments by 2030. The second report looks at the potential size and value of the U.S. offshore wind supply chain and manufacturing base, as well as the unique challenges and opportunities facing the development of an offshore wind market in the United States.
  • To speed up the development of offshore wind technologies, the Department has funded wind testing centers at Clemson University and the Massachusetts Wind Technology Testing Center. These facilities offer manufacturers the ability to test higher-capacity turbine components, innovative drivetrain designs and longer blades than those currently in use for land-based wind. By validating new technologies, these facilities help pave the way for offshore installations with larger turbines that can capture more of the energy from offshore winds and direct it to shore.
  • We’ve also funded the development of innovative technology designs, like the wind turbine drivetrain designs created by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and Advanced Magnet Lab, which require less maintenance and are more reliable, consequently lowering the costs of offshore turbines.
  • Our strategy has also driven Department-funded efforts to gather and share data on offshore meteorological and geophysical conditions, and wildlife populations in potential offshore development zones. These resources will help project developers site offshore turbines with less risk.
  • We’re also studying the potential regional economic and job creation impacts of offshore wind development, and how integrating offshore wind capacity will affect the nation’s existing electric grid.

Assessing the potential, providing crucial data, offering funding and technical assistance, and facilitating technological innovation and deployment are all part of the Department’s ongoing strategy to bring affordable offshore wind energy to American consumers.