DOE awards funding for seven US offshore wind pilot projects

In an initial development phase, the US Energy Department (DOE) will invest up to $4m each in seven pilot projects that aim to speed deployment of stronger, more efficient and innovative offshore wind power technologies that lower costs and drive greater performance.

The project groups will use the money to complete the engineering, design and permitting phase, which is expected to last two years.

DOE will then select up to three of these projects for follow-on phases that focus on siting, construction and installation, and aim to achieve commercial operation by 2017. These projects will receive up to $47 million each over four years, subject to Congressional appropriations.

The seven projects and their lead developers are:

* Baryonyx Corp. plans to install three 6MW Siemens direct-drive wind turbines in state waters in the Gulf of Mexico 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 Energy plans to install up to six 5MW XEMC-Darwind 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, a regional public-private partnership based in Cleveland, Ohio, plans to install nine 3MW Siemens 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 6MW 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 3MW 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.

*The University of Maine, based in Orono, plans to install a pilot floating offshore wind farm with two 6MW direct-drive turbines on concrete semi-submersible foundations near Monhegan Island. These 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 6MW 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.

These projects will also help clear hurdles to installing utility-scale turbines in US waters, connecting to the power grid and navigating new siting and permitting processes. DOE will work with each project group to test these innovations in real offshore environments, and conduct comprehensive instrumentation and data analysis that will help accelerate future US offshore wind deployment.

“Today’s announcement of awards to the first offshore wind projects in the US paves the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and more diverse domestic energy portfolio that develops every source of American energy,” says Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory estimates that the US has more than 4 terawatts of wind energy resource off its coasts. DOE believes offshore wind can eventually support up to 200,000 manufacturing, construction, operation and supply chain jobs across the country, and drive over $70bn annual investments by 2030.

“Today’s announcement is a shot in the arm for the offshore wind industry, since the projects that will now be developed are required to get steel in the water within the next few years," says Jim Lanard, who heads the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, an industry group based in Washington, DC.

“The Obama Administration’s strong support for offshore wind is very much welcomed as the industry seeks to contribute to our nation’s economic recovery and energy independence goals."