US targets $47 million for seven advanced offshore wind projects

Dept. of Energy projects follow $43 million investment in 41 wind projects announced in September

The US Department of Energy this week continued its massive push to develop wind driven electricity with new projects it says will focus on installing utility-scale offshore wind turbines and connecting offshore turbines to the power grid.

According to the DOE, each of the new projects will get up to $4 million to complete the engineering, site evaluation, and planning phase of their project. Upon completion of this phase, the DOE Wind Program will select up to three of these projects to advance the follow-on design, fabrication, and deployment phases to achieve commercial operation by 2017. These projects will be eligible for up to $47 million over four years, subject to congressional appropriations.

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The seven projects selected for the first phase of this six-year initiative are:

  • Baryonyx Corporation plans to install three 6-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines in state waters near Port Isabel, Texas. The project will demonstrate an advanced jacket foundation design and integrate lessons learned from the oil and gas sector on hurricane-resistant facility design, installation procedures, and personnel safety.
  • Fishermen's Atlantic City Windfarm plans to install up to six direct-drive turbines in state waters three miles off the coast of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The project will result in an advanced bottom-mounted foundation design and innovative installation procedures to mitigate potential environmental impacts. The company expects this project to achieve commercial operation by 2015.
  • Lake Erie Development Corporation plans to install nine 3-megawatt direct-drive wind turbines on "ice breaker" monopile foundations designed to reduce ice loading. The project will be installed on Lake Erie, seven miles off the coast of Cleveland.
  • Principle Power plans to install five semi-submersible floating foundations outfitted with 6-megawatt direct-drive offshore wind turbines. The project will be sited in deep water 10 to 15 miles from Coos Bay, Oregon. Principle Power's semi-submersible foundations will be assembled near the project site in Oregon, helping to reduce installation costs.
  • Statoil North America plans to deploy four 3-megawatt wind turbines on floating spar buoy structures in the Gulf of Maine off Boothbay Harbor at a water depth of approximately 460 feet. These spar buoys will be assembled in harbor to reduce installation costs and then towed to the installation site to access the Gulf of Maine's extensive deep water offshore wind resources.
  • The University of Maine plans to install a pilot floating offshore wind farm with two 6-megawatt direct-drive turbines on concrete semi-submersible foundations near Monhegan Island. These concrete foundations could result in improvements in commercial-scale production and provide offshore wind projects with a cost-effective alternative to traditional steel foundations.
  • Dominion Virginia Power plans to design, develop, and install two 6-megawatt direct-drive turbines off the coast of Virginia Beach on innovative "twisted jacket" foundations that offer the strength of traditional jacket or space-frame structures but use substantially less steel.

The new projects follow the DOE's $43 million investment in 41 wind projects announced in September. Those projects will advance wind turbine design tools and hardware, improve information about U.S. offshore wind resources, and accelerate the deployment of offshore wind by reducing market barriers such as supply chain development, transmission and infrastructure, the DOE stated. 

The DOE said (again) that offshore wind continues to represents a large, untapped energy resource for the United States - offering over 4,000 gigawatts of clean, domestic electricity potential, four times the nation's current total generation capacity.  The agency also noted a new report (it commissioned) "Offshore Wind Market and Economic Analysis" that the offshore wind industry could develop up to 200,000 manufacturing, construction, operation and supply chain jobs across the country and drive over $70 billion in annual investments by 2030.

A few other points from the report:

  • There are approximately four gigawatts (GW) of offshore wind installations worldwide. Nearly all of this activity has centered on northwestern Europe, which has led the industry's development since 1999, but China is gaining market position. Europe has seen 3 GW of offshore capacity additions over the past five years (2007-2011), and the rate of annual installations has grown from 225 MW installed in 2007 to nearly 1,258 MW installed in 2010.1 The emerging Asian offshore market has also gained ground in recent years, with China adding 107.9 MW in 2011, bringing its cumulative installed capacity to more than 200 MW. Various forecasts have predicted between 55 and 75 GW of cumulative offshore wind capacity by 2020.
  • Thirty-three announced offshore wind projects lay in varying stages of development in the US, primarily along the Atlantic Coast. Nine of these projects have reached what this report considers an advanced stage of development. A map showing the announced locations and capacities of these nine advanced-stage projects appears in Figure 1. These nine projects represent 3,380 MW of planned capacity, but many of these projects still face challenges prior to achieving final development. Three of these projects, representing about one-third of planned, advanced-stage capacity, lie in federal waters.
  • The average capacity of offshore wind turbines installed globally has grown from 2.98 MW in 2007 to 3.94 MW in 2011. This trend toward larger turbines will likely continue, driven by advancements in materials, design, processes, and logistics, which allow larger components to be built with lower system costs. The average turbine size for advanced-stage, planned projects in the U.S., however, is expected to range between 4.7 and 5.5 MW, indicating that the US is largely planning to utilize larger offshore turbines rather than smaller turbines that have previously been installed in European waters.

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