The U.S. has so far lagged behind Europe and Asia in offshore wind development, but experts say there’s an opportunity to take the lead in floating offshore wind.

The Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC) highlighted the U.S. in a recent report for its potential to capitalize on the next round of floating offshore wind growth, which globally is still a nascent technology. Whether the U.S. can take advantage of the floating offshore wind market, however, depends on policies and investments needed to pave the way.

On April 13th, the RENEWABLE+ Series features industry leaders, advocates, and regulators as part of a free webcast on “Floating offshore wind: How the U.S. can take the lead.” This session will explore the floating offshore wind potential along the U.S. Pacific Coast ahead of upcoming lease auctions for the rights to develop waters off California and Oregon.

Register for free: here.

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The RENEWABLE+ Series on April 13th will also explore lessons learned from Winter Storm Uri for wind power generators in the session “Texas takeaways: Improving weather resilience in wind power generation.” Hear from industry experts from GE Renewable Energy, Enel, and Axis Capital. Register for free here.

Why the U.S.?

The GWEC highlighted the U.S.’s floating offshore wind potential, which it said is supported by renewable energy targets and favorable government policies.

The Biden administration has a goal of developing 30 GW of offshore wind by 2030. The fixed-bottom offshore wind industry is blossoming along the U.S. East Coast, demonstrated by the recent $4.37 billion lease auction for development rights off New York and New Jersey.

GWEC noted that government support is the single-most-important factor for the growth of the floating offshore wind industry. The federal Investment Tax Credit provides a 30% credit for offshore wind projects that begin development before 2026, a potentially critical advantage for the U.S. market. An extension to the ITC was included in the now-stalled Build Back Better Act.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, meanwhile, is equipped to handle floating offshore wind lease management, as it does with fixed-bottom development.

Floating offshore wind technologies present opportunities for development in otherwise unreachable waters off California, Oregon, and the Gulf Coast, the report said.

What’s next

Courtesy: Global Wind Energy Council

BOEM is conducting environmental assessments of offshore wind areas in Northern and Central California. Auctions for the rights to develop these waters are expected to be held in September.

According to California State Lands Commission, “floating offshore wind is the most suitable technology” to harness offshore wind energy along the California coast due to the depths of the waters.

The Morro Bay Wind Energy Area has a development capacity of 3 GW while the Humboldt Bay Wind Energy Area can support 1.6 GW. Both areas have wind speeds averaging around 9 m/s.

Challenges face the U.S. floating offshore wind market, however, in the forms of electric grid and supply chain constraints.

The Humboldt Bay area can support around 150 MW of additional capacity without substantial grid upgrades, according to the report. Morro Bay, in Central California, is less constrained due to the impending retirement of the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant.

The U.S. floating offshore wind market is expected to lean heavily on Europe, Asia, and the U.S. East Coast for supply chain support. The GWEC report estimated that vessel availability is likely to present a “major bottleneck” in the U.S. due to the Jones Act, which prevents non-U.S. built vessels from operating on offshore wind projects.

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